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Flight tax rise 'will damage Caribbean tourism'

IGNORED: Critics condemned the British Government for increasing APD while Caribbean tourism suffers

ANGER OVER the Government’s decision to press ahead with increase in flight taxes is showing no signs of subsiding with a call on Caribbean leaders to keep on fighting.

The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) has issued a plea to the Governments of countries like Jamaica, Barbados, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas to continue to pressure ministers into a U-turn.

It follows yesterday’s announcement that Air Passenger Duty (APD), a 'green' tax, would rise by eight percent from April 2012.

The hike in the levy will significantly affect countries in the Caribbean who are heavily reliant on tourism.

Critics have blasted the way APD is calculated by measuring the distance from London to the destination’s capital city. It means a 4,000-mile flight to Barbados is subject to more tax than a 7,000-mile flight to Hawaii.

In a statement, the CHTA said: “This decision demonstrates the UK’s complete disregard for the future economic prosperity of the Caribbean and the role of tourism in development.

“The decision taken by the UK Treasury is in total contrast to the stated policy of the UK’s desire to improve its relations with the independent Caribbean and Britain’s Overseas Territories in the Caribbean.”

The organisation said that statistics show the Caribbean is already losing British tourists.

Between 2007 and 2010, visitors from the UK has dropped by 19.7 per cent while travellers from all over regions have increased by 2.2 per cent.

The Caribbean, home to seven of the 10 countries most heavily dependent on tourist, has lost $5 billion in revenue over the past three years which they attribute to APD.

But the tax has raised £2.16 billion for the Treasury and latest Government estimates suggest it will be worth £3.8 billion in 2016-17.

“The CHTA with the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), has repeatedly made these points over the past two years supported by empirical documentation to the UK Treasury on the negative economic impact of APD on the Caribbean, and received a sympathetic hearing when it has accompanied Caribbean Prime Ministers and Ministers of Tourism to London”, the statement added.

“The failure to amend the APD banding demonstrates a complete disregard for the impact of APD on the Caribbean community living in the UK which maintains strong links with the Caribbean.

“Data suggests that they have already been forced to decrease their visits by 20 percent since the four band system was introduced. Increased ticket cost is given as the reason for this.”

Tottenham MP David Lammy, who had backed the campaign for reform, said: “Yet again, the Government has taken the Caribbean community for fools.

“That the government is ignoring these perfectly reasonable calls for reform is an insult to those who have made the case for reform so compelling.

“This is a deeply worrying decision. The government cannot be seen to have no interest in maintaining the historic ties between Britain and the Caribbean. These harsh economic times should bring the UK and the Caribbean closer together and not an excuse to drift further apart.”

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