St Lu­cia wants to de­velop tourism – by qua­dru­pling air­port tax

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Hugh Mor­ris

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.