World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has joined the chorus of disapproval over the increases in the government’s Air Passenger Duty (APD) scheme.

General secretary Taleb Rifai disputed the nature of the tax at the World Travel Market Ministers’ Summit. He said: “This is a discriminatory tax and not an environmental one; it singles out developing nations and islands dependent on tourism.”

Ministers and regional representatives at today’s summit instead proposed measures that had brought environmental benefits to their own countries. Jamaica tourism minister Edmund Bartlett referred to the island’s Tourism Enhancement Fund, a $10 per visitor levy that is included through IATA bookings and allocated to environmental, cultural and heritage attractions.

Maldives tourism minister Dr Ahmed Ali Sawad outlined the islands’ plan to be carbon neutral by 2020. It started with a switch to cleaner energy sources, and has seen two wind farms commissioned in the past six months.

Pacific Asia Travel Association chief executive Greg Duffel attacked the culture of handing out subsidies to the private sector to develop green products, especially if consumers do not buy into them.

“Don’t give out blanket subsidies for green developments, but instead let the market select the most successful technologies naturally, and reward those technologies with incentives for consumers to use them,” he said.

Rifai also urged world leaders to adopt the UNWTO’s latest recommendations for the sake of both the environment and the economy.

The Roadmap to Recovery was presented by the UNWTO in October and sets out a plan for job creation and economic recovery, and addresses the long-term challenge of the switch to a ‘green economy’.

Rifai painted a picture of cautious optimism at the ministers’ summit, predicting a global decline in visitor numbers of 5% by the end of 2009, tempered by International Monetary Fund reports of an upswing in spending.