UK still open to APD discussions
A SENIOR United Kingdom (UK) technocrat has said the door is not closed on dialogue concerning the controversial increase in the air passenger duty (APD), which is said to be having a negative impact on the Caribbean tourism industry.
Kate Smith, director of the Americas Department at the British Foreign Commonwealth Office, said the UK is still open to hearing representations on the matter.
"We know that it looks inequitable, but there is a system on which the calculations have been made and the banding has been drawn up," Smith told The Gleaner.
Since the imposition of the tax, Caribbean tourism ministers and other key tourism interests have been engaged in ongoing talks with UK officials, urging them to roll back the duty.
Tourism ministers in the region have insisted that the tax has had a negative effect on the growth of the tourism industry. They argue that the Caribbean has been placed in a band that makes travel to the region much more expensive than travelling from London to the United States.
In a Gleaner interview last week, Smith pointed out that at a recent meeting with Caribbean tourism ministers, the UK treasury minister invited the group to "present the evidence and make the case again of why this (APD) is having a disproportionate effect and he will look at that evidence".
CHANGE IN POSITION NOT GUARANTEED
However, Smith said she could not guarantee that there would be any change in the APD.
"We are open to hearing the case made. The door is open to continue our dialogue on the APD," she stressed.
Just this week, Caribbean Community chairman Dr Kenny Anthony said he was disappointed that the UK had "opted to retain its discriminatory approach" in how it dealt with the APD.
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 £5 (US$7.85) per person. The rate has increased by eight per cent.