The Seychelles government has added its voice to an international call for the re-evaluation of unilateral taxes being applied to long-haul travel destinations.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Paul Adam, joined the South African Minister for Tourism, Mr. Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, and other country representatives to condemn these taxes which are being billed as an environmental initiative to offset the environmental impact of long-distance travel at a joint press conference at the ITB tourism fair in Berlin, Germany on Friday.
During the media event held at the South African stand, Minister Adam signed a communiqué with Minister Van Schalkwyk, along with ambassadors, tourism ministers, and senior officials from Australia, Kenya, New Zealand, Singapore, and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation, which represents 33 long-haul destinations, on the discriminatory nature of the taxes being imposed on travel to long-haul destinations by some European countries.
The communiqué signed, notes the importance of the tourism sector as a major force for development, as well as the importance of developing sustainable eco-tourism, but states that the long-haul taxes being imposed are discriminatory favoring short-haul destinations and that the size of the taxes are excessive.
While speaking to the media Minister Adam explained that not only did the taxes discriminate against destinations like Seychelles, they are damaging to small island states that rely heavily on tourism and who are already faced with other development challenges, and that the environmental arguments for such a tax make no sense when considering the number of flights to holiday destinations.
“Holiday destinations like Seychelles have perhaps one or two long-haul flights a day while popular destinations closer to home have hundreds of daily flights,” said the Minister, “The taxes are calculated by distance traveled and are not a true reflection of the environmental impact and carbon emissions of short-haul flights, which only incur a minimal tax.”
The statement issued calls for a reconsideration of these taxes as they result in a 3-5% increase in flight costs, which will have a negative impact on tourism and because long-haul destinations have no alternative modes of access to air travel. Short-haul destinations have the options to take trains, ferries, or road transportation.
In addition to the discriminatory and industry damaging nature of the taxes the representatives gathered also noted that the revenue from these unilateral taxes, which are being described as environmental or green taxes are not in fact being re-invested into environmental purposes.
The press event concluded with an invitation for other long-haul destinations to join the on-going process to have the European countries re-evaluate these taxes.