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More focus on Tobago tourism
Last week’s news from Tobago was decidedly mixed regarding the island’s tourism prospects. Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran, who serves as head of Caricom’s Foreign Affairs Committee, was keen to trumpet the reduction of the UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) for passengers travelling to the Caribbean from £300 to £240 after intense lobbying by T&T, among other countries.
The recent UK budget statement reforms the APD regime from 2015, abolishing steeper tax rates in Bands C and D, calculated on distances greater than 4,000 miles from the UK. T&T fell into Band C at 4354.84 miles from the UK. But T&T faces more problems than a £60 reduction in a travel tax fee can alleviate. In Tobago, the flagship island for tourism and the location most competitive with the region’s traditional sun, sand and sea sales pitch, Virgin Atlantic Airways will be quitting at the end of March, citing inadequate infrastructure.
According to Tracy Davidson-Celestine, Secretary for Tourism and Transportation in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), the issue boiled down to the inability to provide first-class and business-class lounges, along with other support facilities, at the Arthur NR Robinson International airport. While the THA has moved quickly to meet the shortfall of 266 seats a week on the London-to-Tobago route through negotiations with British Airways and Monarch Airlines, the problem is likely to persist.