PETITION AGAINST HIGH INTRA-REGIONAL TRAVEL TAXES REACHES 10,000 SIGNATURES

PETITION AGAINST HIGH INTRA-REGIONAL TRAVEL TAXES REACHES 10,000 SIGNATURES

The Citizens Against High Intra-Regional Caribbean Travel Taxes are pleased to announce that our Change.org petition has reached 10,000 signatures. The issue of Taxes, Fees and Charges (TFCs) in air transport has been a source of controversy globally. Regional travel is the platform for growth and sustaining education, commerce, the creative and tourism sectors among many other industries, but high and increasing TFCs have contributed to the decline in intra-regional travel in recent years.

When added to the basic fares of carriers TFCS serve to make overall ticket prices markedly more expensive since the majority are passed onto passengers.
The issue of Taxes, Fees and Charges (TFCs) in air transport has been a source of controversy globally. Regional travel is the platform for growth and sustaining education, commerce, the creative and tourism sectors among many other industries, but high and increasing TFCs have contributed to the decline in intra-regional travel in recent years.

When added to the basic fares of carriers TFCS serve to make overall ticket prices markedly more expensive since the majority are passed onto passengers.

Numerous studies have predicted that if governments were to reduce TFCs, intra-regional Caribbean travel would increase significantly with attendant improvement in the economic performance of those countries that reduce TFCs. The greater the increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the more likely there will be a positive net financial impact, where additional tax revenue generated by increasing economic activity would rival the foregone TFC revenue. In other words, over time the increase in travel will likely see governments collect other tax revenue similar to the amount lost by reducing TFCs. This would manifest in the form of revenue increases from existing taxes in the economy (E.g. Sales Tax/Value Added Tax (VAT)).

Beyond economic considerations, at the heart of fostering regional integration is the need for rich personal and cultural exchanges among individuals across our islands and mainland territories. It is in consideration of these and other factors that this campaign seeks to raise public consciousness, galvanize solidarity with individuals and civil society groups and to work in partnership with regional governments to act in the best interest of the region by reducing the exorbitant taxes which cripple regional travel. Through this release we hope to enlist the support of the media and citizens across the Caribbean and in the diaspora to help us reach our next target of 15 000 signatures. Sign and share the petition here – http://chng.it/8PG6qprMqR

Q & A – Petition Against High Intra-Regional Travel Taxes and Fees

· Start date of the petition -motivation behind the petition

Petition was started at the beginning of April 2019 by a group referred to as the Caribbean Citizens Against High Intra-Regional Travel Taxes. The motivation came after doing some research on why intra-regional travel was so expensive and realizing the percentage of total air fares constituted by government-imposed taxes, fees and charges (TFCs). Also, it turned out that numerous studies had been conducted and published which concluded that if taxes and fees were to be reduced that the increased travel is likely to improve the performance of regional economies. Clearly, governments are aware of these possibilities but are hesitant because of the amount of government revenue currently generated by these TFCs. The aim is the put pressure on governments to consider alternatives to the current TFC structure that are more facilitative to intra-regional travel. By doing so we believe that existing revenue does not have to be foregone, but rather collected via different taxes already in place when visitors visit and spend money in the different economies.

· Response thus far, target for number of signatures

The response has been phenomenal thus far. The fact that so many persons from across the region and even in the diaspora are signing and sharing the petition is indicative of the importance and desire of our people to be able to travel more cheaply in the region. We have collected over 10,200 signatures thus far. Our next target is 15,000 and then 20,000.

· Breakdown of country origin of signatures, believed reasons for this

Barbados currently has the most signatures to date. We believe this may be due to the fact that Barbados’ TFC structure is among the highest in the region, especially with the recently increased measures by the new government. Also, UWI students from other countries have taken a keen interest in the petition and because they have signed while in Barbados, signatures reflect this.

Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica are second and third respectively. As they are among the biggest populations in the region, we assume that they are showing an interest in realizing reduced TFCs to facilitate greater movement north and south.

Antigua and Barbuda is the home of LIAT and given the current struggles of the airline they may be signing in the belief that a reduction in government taxes and fees may improve the performance of the airline. Antiguan travelers have also shown a willingness to travel more throughout the Eastern Caribbean and may see a tax reduction as a way to make this more achievable.

US & UK: The Caribbean diaspora in these countries have also taken an interest in the petition as it affects their ability to travel to the region more economically.

· Plans to present petition to regional governments

At present, we are at the media engagement phase of the campaign. We are focused on getting the word out to the region and engaging our citizens to join the movement and take a stand against the current TFC regime. When the signatures collected reaches a point where we believe that CARICOM Governments are unable to ignore the issue any longer, we will be printing hard copies of the petition including the names and origin countries of the thousands of Caribbean people who are demanding change. This will be accompanied by a compilation of the taxes and fees imposed by each government and a letter making the strong case for dialogue on the issue. This communication will be sent to the CARICOM Secretariat as well as the office of each leader of government.

· Comments on the fall off in regional travel statistics

While there are other factors that are at play in determining the demand for intra-regional travel, studies both regionally and internationally have concluded that price is perhaps the most significant determinant of travel. In our region, a larger than desirable percentage of price is constituted by taxes and fees. The statistics show that as taxes and fees (and consequently total airfares) have increased, the volume of travel has decreased. Governments are therefore being charged to be more creative with their aviation tax policies in order to halt this decline in movement among our people.

What’s really important is that people know how they can access and sign the petition

If the article is going to be posted digitally can you include a link? – http://chng.it/8PG6qprMqR

If it’ s for hard copy grateful if you can direct readers to www.change.org, search for “Caribbean Travel Taxes” to sign and share

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