Beyond the call of duty

Caribbean beach
Caribbean beach
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To combat the rise in air passenger duty, Caribbean destinations are fighting back with bargains. Jeremy Gates reports.

When Chancellor George Osborne risked tour operator fury by raising air passenger duty (APD) earlier 
this year, there were fears that family holidays in the Caribbean could face a hammer blow.

APD currently adds £83 to the cost of every economy class seat to the Caribbean. There is no charge for under-twos who don’t get a seat allocated (and don’t purchase a separate ticket). But with no reduced rate for older children, it costs £166 for an adult and child to leave Heathrow.

But tour operators insist summer is the best time to go, to make the most of family bargains, which will help to offset the cost of flights.

Carolyn van Vliet of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) says: “This tax is a considerable burden for tour firms, but we have fantastic summer offers for the Caribbean, many all-inclusive which cover the tax.

“Remember that the ‘low season’ Caribbean of July and August actually has great weather, making it a perfect time for family bargains with offers up to 35 per cent off.

“Beaches are quieter and savvy travellers find discounts on room nights, flights, transfers with lots of lovely extras.”

Carol Hay, director of marketing for the CTO, adds: “The summer holidays are a great time to see our region. With value-added extras like free nights and free meals for children, it’s an ideal option for families keen to avoid premium prices which dominate in short-haul at this time of year.”

The Dominican Republic, where temperatures average 28-31C almost year-round, is a good bet this summer. The rainy season (May-October) usually means afternoon showers which break up the heat and don’t last long.

At the five-star Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa, a family of four can stay seven nights from £3,999, saving £1,179, including flights, transfers, all meal and drinks on selected departures in July/August.

In the British Virgin Islands, reliably balmy with gentle trade winds, the average temperature is 28C from June through to August. Brief showers are commonplace from July, but are more prevalent from September.

The Treasure Isle Hotel, on a hillside in the capital of Tortola, offers five nights for the price of four with free upgrades, in June, July, and August: a family of four could share a family room for a mere £660 for five nights.