The British government has been urged to stop ‘turning a blind eye’ to the damaging effect of air passenger duty, in the wake of other European countries lifting their taxes on air travel.
The call comes after the Republic of Ireland announced plans to drop its €3-per-passenger tax from next April, following the example of Denmark and the Netherlands, and in line with Germany’s decision to freeze air duty at current rates.
Speaking at a World Travel Market debate moderated by Travel Weekly executive editor Ian Taylor, Abta head of communications Victoria Bacon said: “It’s damaging growth, it’s damaging the UK economy and it’s damaging our ability to be competitive.
“Other governments have looked sensibly at this issue. That’s what we need the UK government to do instead of turning a blind eye. What we really want is for the government to engage with us on this – that’s the key point.
“I don’t think it’s a fight we’re going to win overnight. The UK economy is finally showing some signs of growth, so now is the ideal opportunity. We have got an election coming up so it’s important for us to keep pressure on government.
“This is an absolute barrier to continued growth and it’s time that some common sense was applied.”
Bacon reported industry-wide campaign A Fair Tax on Flying had collected 200,000 signatures from the public and secured the backing of 100 MPs and 250 chief executives from UK businesses in calling for the coalition to review its stance on APD.
But Aoife O’Leary, policy officer at Brussels-based environmental lobbying group Transport & Environment, argued the aviation industry had to contribute its ‘fair share’.
She said: “We need to at least ensure that there is a level playing field across transport modes. There is no reason why aviation should be a special case in terms of tax, so if it’s not paying VAT or fuel tax, let’s have APD.
“Really, this is a tax that is quite progressive. If you can afford a long-haul flight to New Zealand, I doubt APD is going to be the cost that would push you over. I feel it’s a bit of a fuss over nothing in many ways.”
The United Nations World Tourism Organization has projected the number of international tourists would rise to 1.8 billion by 2030, which would mean doubling the current level of air traffic to 60 million aircraft operators.
Carlos Vogeler, UNWTO regional director for the Americas, said: “I think tourism should contribute its fair share of taxes but not necessarily become a target to balance public deficits, because that’s what has happened in some cases. Reducing taxes can even bring more tax revenue by growing or stimulating business.
“I don’t think any industry should be excluded from taxation, but it should be applied in an intelligent way. APD has been devastating for long-haul destinations which are highly dependent on tourism, and at the same time, don’t have the ability to compensate for that in another way. Isn’t there any other way in which those taxes could be raised without such a social impact?”
Rob Taylor, New Zealand deputy high commissioner to the UK, also criticised the ‘discriminatory’ nature of the tax on long-haul destinations which are heavily reliant on tourism, saying it was hampering recovery efforts following the earthquake in Christchurch.
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