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British APD decision a ‘slap in the face’

The government of the United Kingdom will not alter the air passenger duty (APD) for tourists travelling to the region – a decision the chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) is describing as a “slap in the face”.

In a 26-page document, the British government refused to change the tax despite aggressive lobbying by regional governments.

“Today’s announcement on the APD is a slap in the face for all Caribbean people,” said Ricky Skerritt, chairman of CTO, yesterday.  “It dismisses all of the research and information CTO has provided to the British government over the past three years, and it contradicts the message sent by the U.K. Chancellor, George Osborne MP, in March 2011, when he cited the discrepancy between the USA and Caribbean APD rates as one of the reasons for holding a consultation on reform of U.K. APD.”

Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, the minister of tourism and aviation, was unavailable for comment before press time.

In an earlier interview with Guardian Business, David Johnson, the director general at the Ministry of Tourism, urged that the region speak as one voice on the “urgent matter”.

“The entire Caribbean continues to be discriminated [against] by this tax,” he said.

First introduced by the British government in 1994, the APD continued to rise in both 2009 and 2010.

Edmund Bartlett, the Minister of Tourism in Jamaica, called on the region to unite against the APD at the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s general assembly last August.

He estimated that it costs a family of four travelling economy class an additional $478 to fly to the Caribbean from the U.K.

Given that the Caribbean is the most tourism-dependent region in the world, Skerritt said the decision by the U.K. government “totally ignores the negative effect that APD is having on our economies and the Caribbean business partners in the U.K. travel industry”.

The chairman of the CTO added that the region understands the need to generate revenue.  However, he insisted that leaders have put forth constructive methods to receive the APD tax “in a non-discriminatory way”.

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