Above: a British Airways Flight
By Alexander Britell
The British Air Passenger Duty continues to rise, and it continues to hurt tourism to the Caribbean, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.
In a statement issued ahead of UK Chancellor George Osborne’s budget speech on Wednesday, the CTO excoriated what it called the “damage being done and the lack of fairness in the way in which the UK’s Air Passenger Duty is applied.”
Duties on flights from London to the Caribbean will rise to £85, or about $140 per person in economy class beginning April 1 if no changes are made.
The Caribbean’s chief objection to the tax is the way it is calculated based on distance.
The government’s calculation means that flights to Hawaii, which is 3,000 miles further away from London than the Caribbean, actually incur a lower duty. Flights to Miami, too, which is basically the same distance to London as the Caribbean is, incur a lower duty than flights to the Caribbean.
In Osborne’s speech in 2011, Osborne noted the issue, saying the government was consulting “on how to improve the existing and rather arbitrary bands that appear to believe that the Caribbean is further away than California.”
“Despite this, and a lengthy consultation in which the Caribbean participated,” the CTO said, “no change has been made to the discriminatory aspect of the duty.”
Last year, a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that if the UK were to scrap the APD tax, it would create almost 60,000 new jobs in the country.
Even after the potential loss of revenue from abolishing the tax, the country would see an economic boost of $788 million in the first year alone, according to the study.
“The CTO recognizes that all governments are required to raise revenue but believes that this should not be at the expense of the economies of regions like the Caribbean which are tourism dependent,” the CTO said. “Nor should it be the case that the Caribbean’s Diaspora in Britain should be penalized when for cultural reasons they return for funerals, weddings and other important family events.”
In a recent interview with Caribbean Journal, Grenada Tourism Minister Alexandra Otway-Noel, one of the most vocal critics of the tax, said it was “unfair” and that it was “cutting families apart.”
In this week’s statement, the CTO pointed to what it said was the UK government’s own data, which showed that some Caribbean countries were seeing that Eastern Caribbean countries in particular were seeing decrease arrivals from the UK.
Indeed, in some regional countries, up to 40 percent of total air arrivals come from the United Kingdom, the CTO said.