|Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy (left) and Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom, Mark Pritchard, addressing the media. (C. Pitt/BGIS)|
The fight to effect change in Britain’s Airline Passenger Duty (APD) continued yesterday evening, when Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy and Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), Hugh Riley, met with United Kingdom Member of Parliament, Mark Pritchard, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Speaking at a press briefing, Minister Sealy remarked that out of all of the CTO member countries, "none are as reliant on the UK market as Barbados is".?? He explained that Mr. Pritchard, who is also Vice Chairman of the Tourism Parliamentary Group in the House of Commons, has been a stout supporter of the revision of the APD, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer conceded was unfair to the Caribbean.??
"The Chancellor?? had agreed to review the APD, and coming out of that revision, they still went ahead with the increases, albeit delaying them…and there is due to be another increase this year, so we have to continue to keep the fight on,"?? Mr. Sealy stressed.
The Tourism Minister noted that ideas coming out of the meeting with Mr. Pritchard would fuel what will be a new wave of lobbying.?? While acknowledging that the abolition of the APD was unrealistic, Mr. Sealy noted that "…all we are asking for is for a fair way for it to be applied.?? I think we have good friends in the [UK] government and good friends around the government in both parties, and I think it is important that we continue to keep that fight up".
Even though an attempt to offer a revenue neutral option to the UK – which would have seen travel within the European Union receive a slight increase in the APD, while the Caribbean was placed in a different band – was refused, Minister Sealy assured that efforts to have the system modified would endure. ??
Acknowledging the need for the issue to be addressed with haste, Mr. Pritchard?? explained: "I understand the UK government’s position and while I can’t speak for government, I recognise that with the debt that we have that we have to raise revenue…from a personal perspective, I think that the Air Passenger Duty, as it currently stands, is not equitable, is not a level playing field, and is something I personally think should be reviewed and should be reviewed in a way that alters the current APD…," he remarked.
The UK Member of Parliament added that with another increase pending for November, there was a small window of opportunity within which to work towards a change in the tax.?? He acknowledged that he, and other members of the British Parliament, would continue to do all they could to effect change vis-a-vis the negative impact of the APD in the region.??
CTO Secretary General, Hugh Riley, observed that something needed to be done, and quickly, as the region was bearing the brunt of an unfair system.
"In 2008, we had arrivals from the UK into the Caribbean of over 1.2 million.?? At the last count in 2011, that had fallen to…just over 700 000…We know that if you substantially increase the price of a product, you are going to substantially decrease the demand. The [APD] which now adds ??81 per passenger in economy [class] and ??162 per passenger in any level above economy is not an insignificant amount.?? That has to be affecting the demand…," he commented.