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Travellers planning Caribbean holidays face yet another hike in UK APD tax

Travellers departing from the UK for their Caribbean holidays face yet another APD tax increase in April 2012. The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) continues to oppose the tax which is said to have a crippling effect on the region's tourism industry.

Travellers planning Caribbean holidays face yet another hike in UK APD tax

Caribbean islands are bracing themselves for the fall out of yet another rise in the controversial air passenger duty tax (APD) with the latest increase set to hit travellers in April 2012.

The APD applies to passengers booking flights to the Caribbean departing from United Kingdom airports and will also impact on passengers who have booked their 2012 Caribbean holidays before the announcement of the new rates. The rise will mean increases of as much as eight per cent in ticket prices as the duty moves from £75 to £81 for economy class tickets and £150 to £162 for high classes. The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) lobbied extensively in 2011, to no avail, for UK officials to remove the tax or at the very least undertake a revision of the current band structure.

The CTO has heavily criticised the APD’s complex four band system which it is has described as discriminatory and disadvantageous for Caribbean holidays. Under the current system there is arguably an inherent bias towards destinations located west of East coast US destinations over Caribbean islands. Despite the fact that these U.S. destinations are further away, travellers incur a higher APD tax for direct flights to the Caribbean.

Idyllic Caribbean Beach
Image by: *michael sweet*, on Flickr

The UK government’s announcement in late 2011 confirming that they would not only continue with the tax system but increase it in April 2012 was greeted with disbelief from Caribbean tourism officials, with the head of the CTO, Ricky Skerritt, describing the announcement as a “slap in the face” for the region. Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, Minister of Tourism and Aviation in the Bahamas went on to state, “I think certainly everybody in the Caribbean is disappointed that some of the changes that were expected didn’t come into effect. I think at the very least the Caribbean region thought they should have been made equal, in terms of the cost of the tax, with the United States. At the very least the Caribbean was hoping that there would be some revision to the banding”.

 Jamaica Waterfall
Image by: worldtraveller5, on Flickr

In February 2012 the Jamaican Tourism Board (JTB) reported an 8 per cent decline in the number of people who took Jamaica holidays between May and January 2012 compared to the same period in 2010/2011. Minister of tourism Dr. Wykeham McNeill attributed part of the decline to a weakening of Europe as a source market as a result of the APD. In order to counteract the negative effects of the duty, the JTB has stepped up its marketing in the UK with an announcement that it will begin advertising on UK television “for the first time in many years” stated Dr. McNeill. Additionally, many feel that the presence of well-known Jamaican athlete and sports personality, Usian Bolt at the London 2012 Olympic Games will serve boost the profile of Jamaica and raise interest in the Caribbean island a holiday destination.

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