UK will consult Caribbean over duty

The United Kingdom government told
a delegation of Caribbean tourism ministers that any changes to the
controversial Air Passenger Duty will be made in consultation.

The system taxes passengers from
the UK dependent on the length of the journey and is calculated from London. It
is a method that the Caribbean Tourism Organisation has said is unfair because
the region is in the highest tax band. The United States is in a lower band
because the distance between London and Washington, DC, is relatively short in
comparison. The tax is due to be increased this November.



John Maginley of Antigua and
Barbuda led the Caribbean delegation, which also included representatives from
Barbados, Greneda, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Caribbean
Trade Organisation secretary-general Hugh Riley. They met up in London with
ministers responsible for the treasury, transportation, tourism and foreign and
commonwealth offices.

“We are very pleased to have had
the opportunity to present our case at the highest levels within the British
government, who appeared empathetic to our concern that the Air Passenger Duty
increase is seriously threatening the health of the British market for
long-haul tourism” said Mr. Maginley.

“We were able to focus the new
British Government and the UK’s travel industry executives on some of the Air
Passenger Duty’s impacts on the Caribbean and on the UK, and suggested possible
changes. The Government gave us the assurance that they will continue to engage
us as they consider changes to the tax.”


Lost investment

A pre-election pledge by the
Liberal Democrats was that they would seek to replace the duty with a per-plane
tax, which they said would raise CI$6.28 billion per year. The Conservatives
also said they would introduce a similar scheme, although they did not release
revenue figures.

David Bishop, the head of policy
for the Airport Operators Association, told reporters in the UK that it would
hit British travellers hard were it introduced.

“A ‘per plane’ tax would hurt
regional airports and result in the range of destinations they offer decreasing.
It would reduce the UK’s global connections and hurt the air freight industry.
The impact on jobs and the lost investment and lost tax revenues could make
this a very costly policy,” he said.

The plan has since dropped off the
agenda following the establishment of a political coalition between the
Lib-Dems and the Conservative party which was needed in order to form a
government after a close-run general election.

Caribbean Diplomatic Corps and
Caribbean Diaspora Leaders were also in attendance at the passenger duty talks.
The tourism organisation said it was a key part of strategy to engage the
diaspora in pressuring the government to take action.

Also present at the talks were the
British Air Transport Association, the Association of British Travel Agents,
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, plus high commissioners of Australia and
New Zealand and representatives from countries in Africa and Asia.