Consultation on Air Passenger Duty in Northern Ireland gives the trade further opportunity to demonstrate the positive impact of abolishing the air tax and VAT on tourism businesses in the province.

The consultation, which runs until June 5, was disclosed alongside Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement.

The Treasury said: “Concerns have been raised about the impact of VAT and APD on tourism in the UK, and particularly in Northern Ireland. However, views on the potential costs and benefits of any changes are divided.

“The government is therefore seeking evidence that demonstrates the significance of any impacts that VAT and/or APD have on tourism, or that helps show how VAT and/or APD might be used to support the growing success of the sector in Northern Ireland.”

This and other issues highlighted in the Spring Statement will have a positive effect on the UK’s tourism industry, according to UKinbound.

Chief executive Deirdre Wells said it was encouraging that a review had been confirmed into the impact of APD and VAT on tourism in Northern Ireland.

“Along with our tourism partners, we will be calling on all those in the industry to submit evidence they have that demonstrates its negative impact,” she said.

Plans to improve transport in English cities will help to encourage tourists to visit and further explore, likely resulting in increased tourist spending.

More reliable broadband will help rural tourism businesses to connect and market their businesses more effectively to visitors.

And building new homes will help to alleviate the lack of affordable housing in the UK – a reason that many EU employees, which the tourism industry heavily relies upon, have cited as a key reason for returning home.

Wells added: “Affordable housing has also been highlighted by a number of our members as a reason their EU employees are starting to return home so we are encouraged that the government is ‘getting on with the job’ of building more affordable homes, which should help encourage skilled EU workers, that our industry heavily relies on, to stay in the UK post Brexit.”

However, the British Retail Consortium said the Spring Statement painted a mixed picture.

Chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Despite the upward revision of forecasts announced by the Chancellor, the economic picture remains fairly bleak, with the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility] expecting private consumption to make a lower contribution to growth this year.

“That will only add to the challenges of the current trading environment. The industry is undergoing rapid structural change as technology revolutionises the way we shop and operating costs escalate, at the same time as inflation continues to outpace wage growth; eating into consumers’ spending power and keeping overall sales growth low.

“The cumulative effect of these prevailing retail headwinds has unfortunately been highlighted by the recent casualties on the high street, which should re-focus attention to what is going on in retail in the UK at present.”

She added: “We’ve consistently called for more frequent revaluations and welcome the Chancellor’s decision to move forward the next revaluation by a year to 2021 as a step in the right direction.

“The Chancellor’s confirmation that the government will provide £80 million in additional funds to support small businesses to take on apprentices is welcome.

“But the government needs to go much further – greater flexibility as to what levy funds may be spent on is urgently required if the retail industry is to play its full role.

“Without retailers’ full involvement the government’s target of three million apprenticeships will not be achievable.”

Responding to the Spring Statement, Gtmc chief executive Adrian Parkes said: “The increase in research and development funding with the first allocation for the development of 5G technology is welcome news for the business travel community – particularly those who travel by rail – and seek to improve productivity whilst on the move.

“Likewise, the announcement that cities will now be invited to bid for financing from the new Transforming Cities Fund announced last November is also positive. In order to build opportunities for growth beyond London and the south-east businesses in regions across the UK need the infrastructure and routes to travel.

“It is also encouraging to see support for small businesses maintained with the allocation of a fund to engage apprentices.

“However, it is important for business owners, business travellers and the government to remember that opportunities for growth lie not only in the domestic market but also overseas.

“Any future investment plans, bids and decisions made around investment in business growth and regional transport networks must pay careful consideration to improving transport links not only on our road and rail networks but also on surface connections to regional airports to enable travel and growth both within the UK and on an international scale.”

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