Caribbean destinations have seen UK visitors plunge by as much as 25% in the last 10 months.
Hugh Riley, chief executive of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation strongly believes that the main reason for this is the increase in cost of the Air Passenger Duty (APD) which came into effect last November, and he is currently in London trying to persuade the new coalition government to reduce the amount of tax paid on flights to the Caribbean.
He stated that the demise in UK traffic did vary from country to country within the Caribbean; but several of the islands had seen a ‘devastating drop.’
The overall decline in UK visitors to the Caribbean is 12.2%, and although this cannot be entirely attributed to the hike in APD, Riley feels that it has certainly had a very strong impact on the figures. He accepted that there were other contributing factors such as the economy and financial recession, however he stated there was no getting away from the fact that the slide in visitors from the UK was far greater than anywhere else in the world.
“APD must be a contributory factor in the decline in visitors from the UK, he stated. “It is logical that if you increase the cost of a product then you reduce the demand.”
Riley and six ministers for tourism from the Caribbean are fully aware that it is highly unlikely that the government will reverse the increase, but do hope that they will move the Caribbean into a lower tax brand, preferably in line with the United States.
At present passengers flying from the UK to the Caribbean pay between £50 and £100 per person APD, depending on the class of travel, this is set to rise again in November to £75 for economy class and £150 for a premium seat.
Passengers flying from the UK to the United States, including Hawaii, currently pay between £45 and £90, and are looking at an increase to between £60 and £120.
Riley hopes that logic prevails and passengers flying to the Caribbean will pay the same as those visiting Hawaii, and concluded, “We are going to do everything we reasonably can to make this happen.”
Riley refused to be drawn on naming which Caribbean destination had registered the 25% deficit.