Full frontal attack
Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean may have better luck at having a revision of the air passenger duty out of the United Kingdom, if the lobby from the region continues to be one aimed at multiple players there.
British Member of Parliament for The Wrekin, Mark Pritchard, told a media briefing this evening as he made public his support of the island’s lobby against the tax, that the key was to focus on fairness in whatever form the APD would take.
As both the Ministry of Tourism here and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation maintained that they were lobbying not for an abolition of the APD, which was now a part of UK policy, Pritchard stated: “I think the key is to work collectively, to work together with other partners in the region to ensure that any campaign continues to be cross party, that it is seen for what it is and that is making sure there is equity, rather than it being back in the UK a Conservative policy or a Labour policy, and I think to quote a distinguish politician, the finger prints of both parties are on this policy and that is the case. So the answer has to be from both main parties working together and that will make a difference.”
He told the media that while he recognised there was a deficit and that the UK needed to raise revenues, he believed as it currently stood, the APD was not equitable and did not ensure a level playing field for all countries. But, Pritchard said, there was a short window available to continue to remind his Government about the impact the tax was having, particularly on the Caribbean as the APD was set to be increased again later this year.
Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy said there were figures being suggested indicating that the increase could be as high as between 10 per cent and 15 per cent on what was already in place.
CTO head, Hugh Riley said at the briefing, that visitors travelling to this region now pay 81 pounds sterling in economy, and about 162 pounds sterling for any of the higher classes of travel, whether business or otherwise.
Sealy said they had seen a nine per cent drop out of the UK, the island’s biggest market, and while there was a slight bump last year, it was nowhere close to the 2008 levels. He projected that additional costs in airfare to visitors will only further hamper travel to the island and the rest of the Caribbean, as it would affect the cost of tickets as well as the much needed disposable income once the tourists arrived at their destinations.
While Riley noted that they would continue the lobby, Sealy said they had reason to be hopeful on two occasions after discussions with the UK on the tax. He noted that initially the implementation had been delayed as the Caribbean had put a “good case” for such and the chancellor had recognised the treatment being meted out to this region as unfair.
“On the basis of those two actions alone, you could say that the lobby was not in vain. No one could argue with the results. First of all, in the first place he delayed the then plan of increases, of course they still came into being eventually but they were delayed and we were allowed to put a case, and a very good case, something that would work out revenue neutral where we suggested to them that travel within the UK could have had a slight increase in its taxation. Not a significant one, but because of the volume of taxation within that region, they could have still made just as much and in some of those scenarios … possibly even get more revenue than they are getting from the long-haul unfair system.
“We suggested a rebanding, a simplifying of the bands and an increase in some of the short-haul travel and it worked out revenue neutral,” said Sealy, noting that this suggestion was nevertheless not accepted by the UK.