Bahamas Tourism Affected By Air Tax

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Travel experts assert the best way for The Bahamas and the Caribbean to combat challenges like the recent U.K. air tax hike is for regional countries to band together with initiatives promoting inter-country travel.

"The Caribbean is being unfairly penalized," said Carlos Vogeler, regional director for the United Nation's World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). "Air Passenger Duty (APD) introduced by the UK government notably affects the cost of travel to mid and long-haul destination.

"The APD for the region is set at a higher band level than for the Hawaiian Islands, which are much further away."

Indeed, it's a matter that has vexed industry stakeholders in recent months following the implementation of the air passenger duty in November. The increases contained in the UK's Finance Bill means all passengers

winging their way to the Caribbean will be required to pay a minimum of $100 for economy travel and twice as much for any higher class of travel.

The fee can be lowered depending on the distance between the UK and the respective country, or which 'band' a nation falls in.

The Bahamas currently falls in a band with the rest of the Caribbean, which has been categorized a farther

band than the US. It's a situation translating into higher priced flights for visitors to The Bahamas. The price hike could essentially compromise the Ministry of Tourism's efforts to grow the number of UK travelers with the addition of mid-priced hotels on the Cable Beach strip and around the country.

Vogeler told attendees of the Caribbeah Hotels and Tourism Investment Conference (CHTIC) that the best way to mitigate the effect of the increase was to integrate tourism policies within the countries of the Caribbean region facilitating travel within the region. Essentially, he suggests the countries in the region - which normally compete for the same visitor - strengthen the regional brand position as a single destination.

It's something also recommended by Robert Crandall, former chairman and CEO of AMR Corporation and American Airlines.

"Collectively emphasizing your proximity, value and diversity to consumers in your primary markets could be extremely rewarding," he said at the CHTIC event. "Whether you choose to create and promote a regional brand is up to you and the many governments in the region.

"Like all consultants and friends of the court, I am here today [and] will be gone tomorrow, but I recommend it to you and hope you will embrace the idea."

Source: The Nassau Guardian