The UK head of Thomas Cook has accused the government of “distorting” the travel market.
Thomas Cook UK mainstream chief executive Ian Ailles told the Abta Travel Matters conference in London yesterday: “It is utterly wrong for the government to fund the marketing of UK holidays to the UK public telling people to stay at home and not to holiday away from home.”
Ailles was referring to the recently-launched domestic tourism campaign, part funded by the government, which includes adverts asking “Why would you want to go abroad?”
He said: “Holidaymakers should be able to choose where they go on holiday without interference. We ask that the government does not distort the market.”
Ailles also hit out over Air Passenger Duty (APD). He said: “The government has steadfastly failed to listen to the industry on APD. The tax only increases.
“It makes me question whether the government is committed to the outbound holiday industry.”
Ailles argued the tax has “real and very serious implications for destinations”, saying: “People who work in tourism are losing their jobs.” He said the impact on visitor numbers to Egypt risked “threatening stability in the country”.
The Thomas Cook boss said: “We have to continue to call for change. APD is becoming self defeating. It is choking off demand. The government needs to assess the damage to the economy against the revenue to the Treasury.”
Transport secretary Justine Greening told the conference: “We weren’t able to get away entirely from increasing APD, but we did delay [the increase].”
The Treasury postponed a planned, inflation-linked increase in 2011 only to impose a rise averaging 8%, double the inflation rate, this April.
However, Greening told the conference: “Aviation is one of the country’s most important assets.”
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