Overall flight searches to the Caribbean have slumped by more than 11% in the past year amid fears of further falls due to the latest rise in Air Passenger Duty from November 1.
Annual online searches for the islands of Jamaica and Barbados have suffered 13.2% and 23% falls respectively, according to flight comparison company Cheapflights.co.uk.
The results come after the company tracked the impact of APD on traffic searching for Caribbean destinations on its UK site following the introduction of sharply increased four-tier APD in November 2009.
The results reflect comments from Caribbean Tourism Organisation head Hugh Riley that visitor numbers to the region from the UK had fallen by 12.2% since last November when four band APD placed the Caribbean in Band C, the third most expensive tax band.
After November 1 this year APD will have risen 275% above pre-2007 rates for all cabin classes to the Caribbean. The tax to the Caribbean will rise from £50 to £75 a seat in economy class and from £100 to £150 in premium cabins.
Economy seats for Band C destinations will cost £15 in APD more than seats for Band B destination Hawaii at £60 even though Hawaii is nearly twice as far from the UK because of the capital city distance from London measurement rule for the tax.
Cheapflights’ global sales director Francesca Ecsery said: “APD is a regressive tax and it is evident that it hurts not only those consumers least able to afford it, but also all those economies dependent on tourism from the UK.
“Faced with such statistics, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that APD is having a significantly negative effect on travel from the UK to the Caribbean.
“A family of four travelling economy class from the UK (or returning home to the Caribbean) will have to pay £300 in tax as from 1st November. Premium class will pay double that.
“Hence it’s no wonder that tourism ministers from the CTO have been lobbying the UK Government to at least relegate the Caribbean into Band B.”
CTO UK and Europe marketing director Carol Hay said: “We are very concerned to hear of the variance in Cheapflights’ year-on-year search traffic for Caribbean destinations since the launch of the four tier Air Passenger Duty last November.
“We appreciate there may be many factors at play in such statistics, however it adds weight to our argument to politicians that all destinations and all British travellers are being affected by such high taxation.”