Air Passenger Duty has had an impact on the number of Brits opting to holiday in long-haul destinations, a senior executive of the Disney Corporation has said.
Randy Garfield, executive vice-president of worldwide sales and travel operations for Disney Destinations, claimed the operator could sustain more capacity to Florida from the UK.
While the cost of flying in real terms remains low, Garfield said increased prices have come as the result of fuel costs and taxes. “APD has certainly had an impact on long-haul travel,” he said.
Speaking at an exclusive lunch for travel industry partners last week, Garfield said: “The number of seats is not what it was a number of years ago on a chartered basis.
“Is the number of visitors a function of the lift or is the lift a function of the number of visitors? I personally believe as the lift increases the load factor will stay steady or improve and we can fill those planes.”
Garfield said Florida visitor numbers show the market from the UK is just below flat on last year, which itself was not a bumper year.
He said although the attractions operator had worked closely with airlines to bring capacity into the market it was not in the business of running an airline or buying seats.
“I do not want it to seem that I want airlines to price so they do not make money. We work in a symbiotic world with the airlines.
“If they come into the market and they cannot make money it’s not good for us because we cannot sustain it. We want them to make a reasonable return.
“But where most of the increases [in fares] have come from is APD and fuel, it’s not someone increasing their profits.
“Fundamentally prices are still cheaper than they were five, ten years ago. It’s a fine balance between the airline making a profit, the consumer feeling they have a good price and being able to sustain the inventory.”
Guests at last week’s lunch said Disney, more than any other attraction, was what drove Florida numbers.
Olly Brendon, chief executive of ATD Travel Services, said he had bought flights for a holiday for next Easter costing £1,000 each.
“It feels in that environment there is room for an entrepreneurial operator like a [Freddie] Laker or a Holiday City Direct. There must be a lowcost opportunity to Florida.
“I do not see anything other than expansion by Disney to get Florida back to where it was. Competitors cannot drive demand like Disney.”
John McEwan, Abta chairman and chief executive of Advantage Travel Centres, said: “We are the only country in the world with such a punitive airline tax. There are signs that the government is starting to get the message.”
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