St Lucia wants to develop tourism – by quadrupling airport tax
Britons planning a trip to Saint Lucia are facing a sharp increase in the cost of flights after the Caribbean island announced a hike in airport taxes.
The government has reintroduced an Airport Development Tax of $35 (£29) and raised the Airport Departure Tax for foreign visitors from $25 to $63 (£20 to £51), meaning the cost of flights booked from Saturday (April 1) for travel after June 1 will go up by £60 to £80. The overall cost equates to a quadrupling in the amount of tax due.
The fee, which is added to outbound airfares rather than paid locally, is aimed at raising money to support improvements to the airport and assist in developing tourism on the island.
“The new government of Saint Lucia inherited a fiscal debt and the increase in tax has been implemented to help deal with these fiscal challenges,” said Agnes Francis, chair of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board.
“We are not overly concerned [it will put off UK tourists]. These policy reform measures include a new tourism incentive to the hotel sector which will ultimately mean that the net effect to our UK travellers is zero.”
Some 65,000 British holidaymakers visit Saint Lucia each year, drawn to the island by its thick, green rainforest, the precipitous volcanic cones of Petit Piton and Gros Piton, and golden beaches.
Francis added that other Caribbean islands have airport taxes, too, including Aruba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, and that Saint Lucia offers a “very good cost-value relationship”.
She added: “Saint Lucia has done a lot of work in developing its product offerings as well as focusing on increasing the amount of affordable accommodation available so that we remain a competitive destination option.”
In a letter to airlines the tourist board said that the country was in a “very precarious position” thanks to its 82 per cent of GDP debt levels.
“Our tourism infrastructure continues to deteriorate while our competitors embark on large scale upgrades, making St Lucia uncompetitive,” said Francis in the letter.
“Ongoing customer feedback point to low satisfaction levels, further exacerbating the island’s competitiveness.”
She added that the tax agreements had been confirmed with IATA, the International Air Transport Association, and that the money would be collected by each carrier and form part of the overall airline ticket price.
Passengers in transit on the island will be exempt from the tax.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, two of the largest airlines that fly to Saint Lucia, did not respond to a request for comment.