The number of UK tourists visiting the Caribbean has continued to fall with tourism authorities blaming the unbalanced levels of Air Passenger Duty (APD).
While the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) said arrivals in the country were up by more than 400,000 to 25 million overall in 2013, under one million British people visited the islands, a decrease of 1.5%.
The drop in UK arrivals continues several years of falling numbers, with the CTO blaming APD and the economy on the result.
“The UK has been an important source market for a number of Caribbean countries especially those of the eastern Caribbean. Its continued sluggish economic growth coupled with significant Air Passenger Duty on travel to this region are seen as good reasons for the continued dampening of arrivals out of this market,” said Winfield Griffith, director of research & IT at CTO.
The organisation urged its members to continue working with the UK trade to lobby in getting the tax levelled to a similar banding to flights in the US.
The Caribbean falls in the ‘Band D’ category meaning an economy class passenger will pay GBP94 in APD, compared to GBP83 if heading to the US.
APD is set to rise again on 1 April pushing the Caribbean banding to GBP97 and the US number to GBP85.
Despite the problems in the UK and Europe generally the CTO reported a ‘buoyant’ US market and growing visitor arrivals from China, Russia and countries in South America.
It is the growth in these emerging destinations that Griffith believes gives “good reason for heightened optimism” for tourism in the Caribbean in 2014.
He predicts tourism arrivals to the Caribbean will increase between 2-3% in 2014.
Hon. Beverly Nicholson-Doty, chairman of the CTO said: “It’s evident that the atmosphere of despair has lifted and the Caribbean anticipates an improved performance in 2014. Clearly, we continue to face challenges, therefore, we can be neither cocky, complacent nor over-confident. We have to fight to boost arrivals both from the traditional markets and new and emerging markets. The figures suggest that South America has immense potential.”