Australian travel industry battles rise in air passenger tax

Australian travel industry battles rise in air passenger tax

The travel industry in Australia has launched an advertising campaign against the government over an increase in tax on air passengers, in an echo of the UK industry’s battle over Air Passenger Duty (APD).

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents, retailer Flight Centre, the National Tourism Alliance and industry lobbying group the Tourism and Transport Forum joined forces to pay for full-page adverts in major newspapers this week protesting at a 17% rise in the passenger movement charge – a form of departure tax.

The government proposes to raise the charge from $47 (£30) to $55 (£34.50) from July 1 and link an annual rise each July to the rate of inflation. The charge is added to the fares of passengers departing Australia at the point of booking in the same way as APD.

The adverts call the tax rise a “cash grab” and accuse the government of providing hundreds of millions dollars to Australia’s steel and automotive industries while hitting tourism.

Travel and Tourism Forum president John Lee described the campaign as unprecedented. He said: “This is the first time the tourism industry has joined together to place an ad related to prices.

“The budget [in May] had a whole lot of help for the car industry and a whole lot of pain for the tourism industry.”

Lee urged members of the federal parliament to vote against the tax increase in a debate on the budget on Monday. He said: “The government is going to get $610 million out of it.”

Australia’s prime minister Julia Gillard said: “Some industries are under pressure because of our high Aussie dollar, tourism among them, and we will work with the tourism industry to see what we can do.”

But she argued increasing the tax on air passengers would raise revenue without hurting the tourism industry.

Gillard said: “The high Aussie dollar makes it cheaper for people to go overseas and they are doing so in record numbers. We thought increasing that charge was a good place to earn an extra bit of revenue.”

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