UK freezes controversial passenger tax

(Jamaica Gleaner) The Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) says it will continue to push for reform of the UK imposed Air Passenger Duty (APD), even though Britain yesterday announced a freeze on the controversial tax.

In a release to the media yesterday, CTO Chairman Ricky Skerritt, the minister of tourism for St Kitts, said the announcement by the chancellor of the exchequer in the British government, George Osborne, was a small but important victory for the Caribbean.

The chancellor announced yesterday that the APD would not rise this year as previously projected, thus not increasing the current tax burden on British travellers to the Caribbean.

“The chancellor’s statement to his parliament that the arbitrary nature of the bands “appeared to believe that the Caribbean was further away than California” is a clear recognition of a crucial issue that has been the focus of the strong lobbying efforts by the CTO and its allies in the private sector, the Caribbean high commissions, and the diaspora,” said the CTO chairman.

He, however, stressed, that despite yesterday’s good news from the UK chancellor, the region’s advocacy on the APD is not over.

“All Caribbean tourism interests must continue to fight for APD reform in a manner that further removes any competitive disadvantage, and does not hamper our efforts to achieve sustainable growth in tourism for the benefit of the people of the Caribbean.”

Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, has also thrown his support behind the CTO.

Onerous cost

In a release yesterday, he said: “It must be noted that the current situation of the Caribbean has not changed for this fiscal year. The onerous cost which passengers must bear and the inequities which we face will still be with us for the year. This will still have a deleterious effect on earnings for the region.”

Bartlett also maintained that the lobby to have the UK government review the regime will be intensified by Jamaica.

“Jamaica will continue to play its role in the long-standing lobby to ensure we arrive at an architecture which is fair, equitable and just.”

He reiterated that “the Caribbean would prefer to see the introduction of a multilateral measure that treats all airlines and countries equally and that can be linked to development and, in particular, to the risk the region faces from climate change.”

In its various meetings with the British government, the CTO opposed the idea of a per-plane tax for economic reasons. The ideal outcome, the organisation said, would be to see no more increases in the APD.

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