Tuesday, April 16, 2024

TOURISM MATTERS: Taxes, add-ons may kill tourism


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AS?WE?RAPIDLY?APPROACH the end of the traditional winter season, I would imagine our tourism planners are now in high gear trying to evaluate exactly how we can increase long-stay visitor arrivals, and perhaps equally important revenue, during the eight long summer months.
Climatic conditions cease to be the overwhelming reason influencing travellers in their final destination choice, so largely the type of marketing to reach our target market has to change.
Hopefully during the upcoming British budget, that government will decide to reduce or at least limit any further rises in the advanced passenger duty.
But with no apparent sign of emerging from a recession, the hike in VAT and all the other price increases reflecting higher fuel costs, it is difficult to see any substantial improvement in arrivals from what is still our single largest market.
So that leaves Canada, the United States and any growth opportunity within the Caribbean.
Emerging markets like Brazil will need continuous development with all the costs that involves before we can even hope that it will prove a sustained long-term contributor – especially if we choose not to include our Caribbean neighbours and fully exploit the trade possibilities.
What then, will tempt ever more discerning and budget-conscious potential travellers to pay that extra to fly further to Barbados?
The expression “value for money” keeps being bandied around, but do we actually have any national marketing programme that incorporates either the phrase or the reality of this objective?
And before someone quotes discounting, we have to realize that you can drop the price as much as you like but if the product is still not perceived as offering value for money, you are simply wasting your time.    
We are getting dangerously close to selling a product where a large proportion is made up of taxes and add-ons rather than on the actual consumed item.
Are we running the risk that those purchasing holidays will break down the cost of the package, then deduct all the non-contributing extras and evaluate what can actually be reasonably delivered for the amount left?
Read through some of the many guest postings on the world’s largest travel reference website TripAdvisor to see that in many cases we are not meeting expectations.
If this continues, it will ultimately have a severely detrimental consequence for the perceived quality of the destination.
The private sector has little or no control over this element of costs, so once again the responsibility passes back to Government and they have to finally accept there are just so many ways you can extract taxes.
In a recent TravelMole article, the Fair Tax on Flying Campaign stated that since its introduction in 1994, revenue to Government from APD has increased by a staggering 2 600 per cent.
Low-cost carrier Ryanair’s boss Michael O’Leary said, “This tax is nothing short of tourism suicide as the [British] government continues to lose jobs and tourism revenues by taxing tourists instead of welcoming them.”
Our politicians may wish to consider these observations while trying to defend the highest departure tax in the Caribbean.


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