A senior airline official says despite the controversial Air Passenger Duty (APD), if players in the tourism sector in Barbados want to keep visitors coming from the United Kingdom they should maintain high standards.
Nick Parker, Caribbean regional manager for Virgin Atlantic, told Barbados TODAY that although he would continue to lobby against the charges, which affected tourist arrivals here, it was also up to industry players to ensure the island remained competitive.
Parker said the duty, which takes distance into account thereby making it significantly more expensive for long distance flying, continued to be a challenge.
The APD is an excise tax that is charged on the carriage of passengers flying from an airport in the United Kingdom.
“The Air Passenger Duty clearly has an impact on tourism and suppressing demand. It is not good for the UK economy and unfortunately the Caribbean region is hit unfairly by the banding system,” he said.
“Having said that, if the product is right on the ground in terms of the quality of the hotel experience and the service that people get wherever they are on holiday people will come back and people will book. So the Air Passenger Duty, yes it is a challenge and it is an unjust tax,” said Parker.
He said the airline continued to work “very hard” with Caribbean governments, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association (BHTA) and the Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA) to lobby the UK Government on the issue.
“But [with] the APD,” he said, “there is opportunity still to thrive within the [tourism] environment by making sure that here in Barbados that we are better than competing islands, making sure that all the islands here, we are trying to get the tourist, whether it is out of the US, the UK, wherever. So if we get the service and the quality of experience right on the ground people will come. It doesn’t change the fact that APD is an unjust tax but we can still make it work down here,” said Parker.
The APD, instituted in 1994 is a British environmental tax, aimed at offsetting aviation’s carbon footprint. In its initial stage it was set at five Pounds, but has since increased substantially over the years.