CTO’s Ricky Skerritt hands over ‘sound platform for strategic change,’ slams UK over APD tax

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, OCTOBER 11TH 2012 (CUOPM) – Outgoing Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Council of Ministers and Commissioners, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Tourism and International Trade, Sen. the Hon. Richard “Ricky” Skerritt said a sound platform for strategic change has been created and he was confident that he is handing over a stronger and more achievable vision for CTO’s improved effectiveness.

CTO Council of Ministers (CTO Photo)

” Two years ago, there was an urgent need to change the perception by several CTO members that our Caribbean brand marketing strategy in North America and Europe was not providing an adequate return on our investment. Consequently, getting member countries to contribute to the CTO marketing fund has been and continues to be a major challenge,” said Sen. Skerritt during the opening ceremony of the State of the Industry Conference at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort Wednesday night.

He told delegates and invited guests including St. Kitts and Nevis’ Governor General His Excellency Dr. Sir Cuthbert Sebastian and United States Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress, the Hon. Donna Christensen, that at the same time travel consumer demands and expectations have changed dramatically, aided and empowered by the rapid rise of social media, with the top travel priority becoming the desire by guests to enjoy greater value for the same, or even less, money.

The St. Kitts and Nevis tourism minister said that cash-strapped governments on both sides of the Atlantic have began looking more to the travel and tourism sector as a way to balance their debt-ridden budgets.

“International aviation has therefore become a more attractive source of taxation for Governments desperate for revenue. The Airline Passenger Duty (APD) tax in the UK is an example of such taxation gone crazy. The structure of the British APD is not only prejudicial to long-haul travel to the Caribbean, but it has sent the level of ticket-related taxes to an unprecedented high, raising nearly 3 Billion Pounds annually for the British Government to use on domestic programs which have nothing to do with aviation. In CTO, we believe that aviation tariffs should be kept at a minimum. It is our strong opinion that tariffs should facilitate the delivery of proper security and better service at airports, and enhance travel-related developments to result in more people traveling, more cargo, and better value for the traveller. We disagree with the British Government that aviation should be taxed at unlimited levels for balancing budgets,” said Minister Skerritt.

He described as unfortunate that in spite of CTO’s best advocacy efforts, the United Kingdom Chancellor, George Osborne has maintained his stance towards the Caribbean.

“He is still not inclined to make any adjustments to his present discriminatory aviation tax structure, in which he taxes an airline ticket from London to Hawaii at a lower rate than for a ticket from London to St. Kitts, which is a much shorter distance away. In a letter last month to CARICOM’s Chairman, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, the Chancellor said that – and I quote – “APD makes a vital contribution to the public finances and it is important that revenues from the duty are maintained.” (END OF QUOTE)

On the other side of the Atlantic, despite US Federal taxes that already constitute 20% of airline ticket prices, new proposals are pending in the US Congress that include additional travel-related fees. Particularly with the increase in airfares to the Caribbean, consumers who are paying more to get to our region expect more from our destination when they arrive. This heightened demand by travel consumers for value dictates that we must provide them with the best possible return on expenditure,” said Minister Skerritt.

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