UN tourism body speaks out against APD

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Carlos Vogeler, the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) Director for the Americas, has hailed Britain’s decision to halt the Air Passenger Duty (APD) but says the government needs to go further and make a full revision.

Vogeler described the APD as an unfair tax that poses a challenge to the growth of tourism.

Last month, the British government announced a delay in the APD for this year, but did not scrap the tax as the Caribbean had been lobbying for.

The APD, which places countries in bands based on the distance of their capital cities from London, was set to increase again on November 1 from £50 (US$77) to £75 (US$115) per person for economy class seats and from £100 (US$154) to £150 (US$291) in premium economy, business and first class.

Regional stakeholders argue that the tax structure is unfair, pointing out that, for example, it places a destination like Hawaii, which is twice the distance from London than Kingston, in a lower rate band because the U.S. capital is Washington, DC.

Addressing a large group of tourism stakeholders at the recent Fourth Annual Tourism Outlook Seminar in Jamaica, Vogeler said increased taxation, climate change and promotional budget cuts by governments were some of the major threats to the growth of tourism worldwide.

The UNWTO executive also pointed out that a slowdown in the growth of the world economy could also affect the rebound of the global tourism trade which represents some 45 per cent of the exports of services by developing countries. He revealed that the Caribbean accounted for 2.2 per cent of world tourist arrivals or 20 million international arrivals in 2010. This generated an estimated US$23 billion in earnings for the region.

However, Vogeler said there remains much scope for growing the Caribbean’s share of the world tourism market and recommended that countries in the region pursue multi-destination marketing, improve inter-Caribbean air accessibility, position the region as a single brand and integrate tourism policies to achieve this.

He underscored that tourism is a major engine for employment creation, especially in developing countries, adding that it has the ability to make a decisive contribution to the recovery of the global job market.

Based on UNWTO projections, the world tourism market is expected to grow 4-5 per cent this year and between four and six per cent for the Americas. International tourist arrivals are projected to reach 1.5 billion by 2020.

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