British Airways chief says Air Passenger Duty threatens the fabric of the tourism sector


(eTN) – Chief executive officer of British Airways Willie Walsh said that the Air Passenger Duty (APD) tax on British travelers to the Caribbean not only massively overstates the carbon impact of flights to the Caribbean but threatens the very fabric of the tourism sector on which so much of the island’s economies depend.

“It threatens jobs and opportunities – and the ability of the islands’ governments to maintain funding levels for the education, health, and welfare programs they expect to provide for their citizens. Many other island economies in the developing world find themselves penalized in the same way,” he told participants attending the first Caribbean Tourism Organization Leadership Strategy conference which opened in Barbados on Sunday.

Describing the tax as a disgrace and one that is so disproportionate to the Caribbean, Walsh told the hundreds of tourism stakeholders that the APD on long-haul routes has tripled or, to some destinations, even quadrupled in four years.

“The latest rises range between 50 and 112 percent, compared with APD levels last summer. Because of the unfair distance banding on which the tax is based, Caribbean destinations suffer disproportionately,” he said while explaining that a family of four flying economy-class to Hawaii from London, involving a distance of more than 7,200 miles, would incur an APD charge of £240.

“Yet the same family traveling to Nassau in the Bahamas, which is not much more than half as far, pays £300 – and double that if they sit in premium economy. The tax from the UK to the Caribbean is so disproportionate that the APD revenue taken on a typical flight is nearly ten times the actual carbon cost of that flight,” he said.

Walsh said that since November 2009, when APD to the Caribbean went up from £120 for a family of four to £200, arrivals from Britain have fallen by 12 percent (and by as much as 25 percent on some islands).

“Some of this sudden drop could be attributed to [the] economic recession, but it seems clear that APD has played a major part, because the majority of Caribbean countries [has] seen larger decreases from the UK than from anywhere in Europe,” he said while pointing out that even if families find the extra money to pay the tax, they will have less to spend when they arrive here.

“So they may stay for shorter periods, eat out fewer times in restaurants, take fewer excursions, and spend less on local goods and services,” he said.