Barbados’ Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy (left)??greets Chief Executive Officer of British Airways, William "Willie" Walsh (centre) as Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Hugh Riley looks on.??

Caribbean tourism leaders have been told that it is unrealistic "to go it alone" and have been urged to adopt a coordinated approach to the United Kingdom’s (UK) increases in Air Passenger Duty.

These were two key statements made yesterday at the start of the Caribbean Tourism Organization’s (CTO) Leadership Strategy Conference, at Hilton Barbados.

This island’s Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, told the over 300 delegates that it would be impracticable to believe that perfect solutions to all problems facing the sector could be found during the two-day conference.

Minister Sealy said: "Life is not like that. In an industry that employs millions of actors across the globe who are engaged in a continuous m??lange of cooperation and competition, the solutions we look for emerge over time out of a series of trials and errors; agreements and confrontations; discussions and dialogue.

Chief Executive Officer of British Airways, William "Willie" Walsh in conversation with??Barbados’ Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy (centre) and????Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Hugh Riley.

"It is important to converse with each other; to understand the other perspective and to distill the real trends from the cacophony of conflicting advice."

Acknowledging that this was the real purpose of the CTO conference, he added: "if this gathering is able to help galvanise the emergence of a solution, even in one fundamental area, then we can claim success."

And, he stressed that in the context of the most crippling economic crisis and the most strenuous of efforts to limit the damage to our tourism industry over the last two years, the conference provided "a golden opportunity to reflect on the journey that has brought us to this location, at this time, and to chart a new course for Caribbean tourism."

Day one of the conference, which saw British Airway’s Chief Executive Officer, William Walsh, delivering the keynote address, examined, among other things, aviation issues; the emerging Chinese tourism markets and destination branding

Mr. Walsh, in a press briefing, called for a coordinated approach to dealing with the Air Passenger Duty, and expressed satisfaction that Caribbean Governments had already started to lobby the UK.

He said: "I am pleased to see the tourism Ministers and Prime Ministers from this region take every opportunity to lobby the [UK] Government – and, Minister Sealy has been very active

"… I think the problem we have is when these taxes were introduced we didn’t coordinate our activities and we didn’t object to them and that just provided encouragement to the Government to continue to increase them."

Stressing a coordinated approach was the way forward, Mr. Walsh maintained: "We’ve got to make it clear that the aviation industry and tourism industry can’t bear these ever-increasing taxes that are disproportionate to our environmental impact, but more importantly, are having a significant negative effect on the economic well-being of the nations here in the Caribbean."

In his keynote address the BA CEO had earlier pointed out that the APD on long- haul routes had tripled or, to some destinations, even quadrupled in four years. He disclosed that: "The latest rise ranged between 50 and 112 per cent, compared with APD levels last summer. Because of the unfair distance banding on which the tax is based, Caribbean destinations suffer disproportionately…

"The tax from the UK to the Caribbean is so disproportionate that the APD revenue taken on a typical flight is nearly 10 times the actual carbon cost of that flight."

Mr. Walsh added: "Since last November, when APD to the Caribbean went up from ??120 for a family of four to ??200, arrivals from Britain have fallen by 12 per cent (and by as much a 25 per cent on some islands)." jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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