U.K. Taxes Hurt Jamaica

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United Kingdom travel agents say the controversial Air Passenger Duty (APD) has made Jamaica a hard sell, even to some persons who are accustomed to visiting the island up to three times a year.

A group of 20 UK travel agents, meeting at the Jamaica Product Exchange (JAPEX) at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, all admitted that it is now harder to convince their clients to book trips to the island as a result of the controversial tax. The APD has made it so much harder to sell the destination even though Jamaica has such a very good product, said a representative of one travel company in London.

The agents said while the majority of their clients are impressed with Jamaica’s tourism product, they just cannot afford the increased taxes, especially for larger families. Travel companies participated in a campaign to push the UK Government to either abolish the APD or place the Caribbean in the same band as the United States,without success.

The APD places countries in charging bands based on the distance of their capital cities from London. This means that flying from London to Los Angeles or Hawaii in the United States is calculated as being the same as to Washington, DC, while destinations in the Caribbean are charged at a higher rate of tax. As a result of the revisions made to the APD last year, economy-class passengers flying to the Caribbean face a tax of £75 (US$110) per ticket.

Kayleigh Bromley from Thomas Cook, one of the world’s oldest and largest travel companies, said many of the clients who would normally travel to Jamaica are now choosing destinations in Europe in order to bypass paying the tax.  It apprears that a lot of travellers are opting instead to take the train to Paris and Brussels, anything to avoid paying the APD.

Although Caribbean hotels are cheaper, the APD cost adds up, and so because the English already pay too much in taxes they are bypassing that one.  However, the Caribbean offers better value for their money than Europe because tourists should not to expect allinclusive in Europe to be the same as all-inclusive in the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, a study done by a London-based group which analysed traffic search patterns for the first six months of 2009, 2010 and 2011 for Barbados, Jamaica, Mexico and other long-haul destinations, said it found that there has been a 51% drop in Caribbean destination searches.

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