International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh has slammed the UK government over its attitude to travel in a speech to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
Walsh told the WTTC summit in Tokyo: “Air Passenger Duty is a disgrace.” Referring to the UK prime minister’s recent visit to Japan, Walsh repeated David Cameron’s words that “it is part of the prime minister’s job to bang the drum for Britain because we need to export more”.
But he said: “The prime minister’s words are not supported by the government’s actions. The government pledged to ‘take steps to improve the competitiveness of the tourism industry’, recognising the contribution it makes to the UK economy.
“What it has done is increase APD by double the rate of inflation.”
Asked about the delays and cost of the UK visa application process, Walsh said: “It is just down to bureaucracy. We have to embarrass the government on this.”
Earlier, Pacific Asia Travel Association chief executive Martin Craigs told the summit: “The UK government is the heart of darkness on tax and travel.
“APD has cost 91,000 British jobs according to a WTTC report by Oxford Economics.
“If the UK and European Union suppress air travel growth to Asia [through APD and emissions trading] by 1% to 2030 that would mean 6.5 million fewer jobs in travel and tourism in Asia.”
Travelport president and chief executive Gordon Wilson used the summit to appeal to the UK government, saying: “Don’t tax travel without seeing the underlying impact.” But Wilson added: “My government won’t listen to me. We all need to carry this message to the UK.”
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