Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy is heading to the United Kingdom (UK) next week, to hold discussions with representatives of the new government there about the much debated air passenger duty (APD).

??Speaking today after a tour of the Limegrove Lifestyle Centre in Holetown, St. James, Mr. Sealy revealed that a series of meetings had been set up with officials from the UK’s Exchequers and Treasury Departments, its Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as the Ministry of Tourism.

At those talks, the Minister and his delegation, which will include the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Tourism Association, Ralph Taylor and David Rice, respectively, will seek to reinforce the effort which has been led by the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), to have the APD readjusted in the first instance and ultimately repealed.

"We will take the opportunity as well to meet with the diaspora element in the UK which has been working very hard. The High Commissioners have actually come together and have been lobbying, and so it is our way of registering to the new government exactly how we feel about the APD – that it can negatively be a factor and that we need to make our point known," Minister Sealy explained.

While conceding that the UK had its challenges and was therefore unlikely to repeal the tax, the Tourism Minister stressed that if government failed to put its case, it would "run the risk of allowing others to do similar things".??

He added: "Germany has recently put a 45 Euro charge on long haul flights, and I am certain that other members of the European Union may look to do likewise if we simply sit silent. Barbados has more at stake than anyone because we get more British visitors than any other Caribbean destination. So we are going to be part of that CTO effort."??????

Mr. Sealy also noted that while in the UK, he would take the opportunity to meet with players in the airline sector and some of the tour operators. He said that this would be in an effort to make sure that Barbados had seats coming into the winter season and beyond, coming out of what is this country’s most important market.

He conceded that 2009 was a year of significant decline in the UK market, adding that, sO far this year, arrivals were on the decline, but with some "bright spots". He pointed out that in May, for example, there had been significant increases because of the 20-20 World Cup event.

"July and August have also been quite good for us. So we are satisfied that with some effort, with greater public/private collaboration, staying close to the operators, getting some specials in the market, … that we can get that UK situation back on track," the Minister stated. .

On a positive note, Minister Sealy said that there had been improvements out of all the major markets. "I say so guardedly, because 2009 was a decline year, so to be up on 2009 is something necessary, but at the same time, we have to put it in context.

"However, I am very happy that we are seeing from the UK again that the needle is going back up. Canada has been constantly increasing and the USA has also been responding quite positively," he observed.

With respect to intra-regional travel, Minister Sealy acknowledged that there were still some challenges. "I think we can do a lot better in that department and we are working on dealing with that at the level of Caribbean Airlines and also with LIAT … with a view to making ourselves more affordable for the Caribbean market which is a significant one. It’s our third largest market and it’s important that we continue to have business from Trinidad and from the rest of CARICOM," he stressed.

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