By Azad Ali

British Airways is predicting a six percent drop in passengers to the Caribbean because of a British airline tax, high unemployment and European regulations on carbon emissions which will mean fewer travelers to the region.

CEO of British Airways Keith Williams has a bleak outlook for Caribbean tourism due to Britain putting a higher tax on flights to the region than to competing destinations in the United States.

He said the tax increases the cost of a flight from London to the Caribbean for a family of four by about $470.

Williams was at the time speaking at the recent Caribbean Tourism Organization conference in French St. Marteen.

British Airways has announced its intention to discontinue the two weekly flights from Gatwick, London to the tourist resort city of Montego Bay, St. James in Jamaica next summer.

The airline, which only returned to the Sangster International Airport in Jamaica in 2009 after seven years, said the decision to withdraw from Montego Bay was made against the route’s commercial performance.

In June, Virgin Atlantic also announced plans to pull out the London to Kingston route next April, months ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Virgin will, however, continue flying from London to Montego Bay.

Virgin, a major driver of tourism revenue in the Caribbean, has transported more than 75,000 passengers between the UK and its eight destinations in the region last year, including Barbados, Cuba and Jamaica.