UK airlines blast Conservative manifesto as 'missed opportunity'

UK airlines blast Conservative manifesto as 'missed opportunity'

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The absence of any mention of Air Passenger Duty (APD) in the Conservative Party election manifesto is being interpreted by UK airlines as a missed opportunity.

The Tories pledged to simplify and speed up the issuing of tourist visas and gave a backing to the UK tourism industry, with specific plans to invest to boost the sector in the south-west.

But there was nothing in the document on APD despite pledges to take action on other taxes.

British Air Transport Association chief executive Nathan Stower said: “It is disappointing that the Conservatives have missed an opportunity to set a new course on APD.

“If you want to increase exports, expand inbound tourism and encourage UK businesses to invest and grow, it makes no sense to keep the highest tax on air travel in the world.

“With devolution of powers over APD planned for Scotland and being considered for Wales, a Conservative government should avoid unnecessary complication and boost the UK economy as a whole by abolishing APD in the new Parliament.”

Stower added: “I welcome the Conservatives’ support for tourism and their commitment to simplify and speed up visa issuance for tourists.

“Visa application processes, wait times, information requirements and fees should be regularly reviewed and adjusted to be made competitive with other visa regimes such as Schengen.

“This is particularly important if the UK is to attract more visitors from important growth countries like China and India.

A spokesman for the Airport Operators Association said: “We’re pleased that both of the largest political parties have made an explicit reference to the Sir Howard Davies Airports Commission, especially with the final report due to be published in a matter of months.

“As we have been saying for some time, the government of the day needs to act on the recommendations as soon as possible in the new parliament, whilst also ensuring that policies are put in place to make best use of the capacity that already exists in the system, through areas such as APD reform and surface access.

“We support the principle behind the National Infrastructure Commission, originally set out by Sir John Armitt and included in the Labour manifesto, and we are pleased that the Conservatives have made such a clear reference to the need for additional investment in infrastructure, as well as support for a thriving tourism sector, which is of course so important to future growth in our sector.”

The Conservative manifesto said: “Our tourism industry already supports three million jobs and is one of the nation’s leading employers and export earners.

“We will set challenging targets for VisitBritain and VisitEngland to ensure more visitors travel outside the capital.

“We will simplify and speed up visa issuance for tourists. And because tourism is an industry that depends more than most on young people, we will step up efforts to recruit more apprentices into the business.”

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