Above: a British Airways flight
By Alexander Britell
PORT OF SPAIN — The United Kingdom’s Air Passenger Duty, a tax levied on flights originating in the country, “creates an obstacle to job creation and economic growth” in many destinations, including the Caribbean, according to Carlos Vogeler, the regional director for the Americas at the UN’s World Tourism Organization.
The tax, which will reportedly be increased for 2013, is calculated by the distance traveled on a given ticket, although the Caribbean has charged that it unfairly discriminates against the region and has dampened travel to the tourism-dependent area.
“The APD, which has been sold as a green tax, when it has really no link to investment in green technology or offsetting, is contrary to the objectives of support and development,” Vogeler said. “It creates an obstacle to job creation and economic growth in many regions, including the Caribbean.”
Vogeler, who was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 14th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development, said the issue “needs to be addressed,” as increased tourism-related taxation poses a threat to the continued growth of the sector worldwide.
He said that, while taxes and duties are “fundamental and legitimate” fiscal tools for governments, there was a growing concern about the proliferation of levies globally.
Both the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association have been heavily critical of the tax, particularly in light of a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggesting that abolishing the duty would create almost 60,000 new domestic jobs in the UK.
That study was commissioned by Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair.
Vogeler praised the Caribbean’s efforts in lobbying the UK on the APD, and the “hard work which the Caribbean Tourism Organization has been carrying out in this field, and that we have been strongly supporting.”
The Spanish-born official was giving a wider speech on sustainable tourism to open the 14th Caribbean Sustainable Tourism Conference, urging the region to think about responsibility and sustainability in the industry.
“A tourism sector that does not have an ethical basis is totally out of touch with the needs and challenges of our times,” he said.