The Queen of Flights and Tourism
Welcoming our newest cohort, Jamaican High Commissioner Aloun Ndombet-Assamba won the 2016 Policy Driver Award for her lobbying efforts in reforming the Air Passenger Duty affecting tourism between the UK and the Caribbean.
The controversial Air Passenger Duty travel tax was introduced in the UK in 1994 as a measure to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, the tax made flying into Jamaica and the Caribbean more expensive, attracting substantial taxes that hurt airlines, business users and consumers. The UK is the fastest growing market for Jamaica, but the tax rise led to more than 28,000 tourists being lost to competing markets outside of the Caribbean.
As former Minister of Tourism, Ms Ndombet-Assamba is acutely aware of the key role tourism plays in Jamaica’s economic growth and development. Tourism is the lifeblood for the island which is responsible for creating jobs and entrepreneurialism for local residents. The High Commissioner described the APD as being discriminatory and harmful to small Commonwealth nations. For example, the unequal system meant that UK residents travelling to Jamaica paid more duty than those travelling much further distance such as Hawaii.
Speaking of the tax, the High Commissioner passionately explains that, “the system unduly favours the United States and short-haul destinations in Europe.”
Whilst in the UK, Ms Ndombet-Assamba worked closely with other Caribbean countries and led the effort to secure an item on the Commonwealth Summit agenda to get the matter discussed by those countries affected by APD. The active campaign by Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Governments, which was led by the Jamaican High Commissioner, the UK Caribbean Diaspora and other Heads of Missions, resulted in the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announcing that all long haul flights will carry the same lowered band B tax rate as the United States, at his 2014 budget statement.
Since the implementation in April 2015, Jamaica has seen immediate benefits such as a 31.5% increase in tourism. Ms Ndombet-Assamba was thus able to organise and lead a regional initiative that established a policy change for the benefit of not only her home, but the entire Caribbean as well as improved UK-Caribbean relations.
In addition, Ms Ndombet-Assamba has also spent a majority of her tenure as High Commissioner in empowering the youth of Jamaica, a feat she was nominated for in 2014. She was very active in starting women’s leadership initiatives in Jamaica, creating circles of support for women who run the family household, are at risk of domestic violence, or have difficult family environments. She was instrumental in supporting SEAD Jamaica, the Social and Economic Alliance for Development, in mentoring young people aged 17 to gain better access to employment opportunities.
Ms Ndombet-Assamba truly seeks to improve the quality of life at grassroots level alongside her foreign policy goals. She tries to represent and assist all her constituents including the most vulnerable populations. Her commitment to empowerment allows her people to develop an active voice in their life and future.
After four successful years as High Commissioner, Ms Ndombet-Assamba has now returned to Jamaica as a civil servant and we look forward to seeing her work take shape on the ground. Grassroot Diplomat was honoured to have worked alongside the High Commissioner and wishes our prolific winner further success in her work and career.