Opinion: Today’s Travel Matters has vital messages for the government

Opinion: Today’s Travel Matters has vital messages for the government

Whatever tomorrow’s EU referendum result, airport capacity constraints, APD and Atol reform need addressing, argues Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer

Twenty four hours before polling opens in the hotly-debated EU referendum, and 48 hours before we’ll know the outcome, the travel industry’s senior leaders are coming together in Central London for Abta’s annual Travel Matters conference – a significant time to be coming together, ahead of a momentous decision for our country.

The EU referendum will, quite understandably, be a focus of discussion at Travel Matters. Earlier in the year, Abta consulted widely with members to understand how Brexit could affect travel businesses and the travelling public, and produced a report with Deloitte, assessing the impact.

We considered the implications from a travel perspective, and in this respect, our view is that the potential risks and downsides of leaving the EU are not matched by an equal upside for the traveller, nor for travel businesses.

However, we recognise that people will consider many factors before casting their vote, whether they be personal, professional, or economic.

Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s vote, Abta’s role in the next twelve months will be to maintain confidence in travel among the public, and to help Government to understand and prioritise those matters that are important to our members and our industry.

This will be the key message ringing loud and clear from Travel Matters today.

We’ll hear a call for increased airport capacity:  For too long, successive Governments have deferred and delayed this important decision; and the UK’s competitiveness gap is widening as a result.

No Government has had longer to prepare for a decision, and so, as an industry, we expect one. The Airports Commission’s final report, the Government’s acceptance of the conditions set out by the Commission with respect to night flights, noise, and environmental impacts, and the key commitments made since, with both Heathrow and Gatwick tacitly accepting these conditions, leaves the Government with no reason to delay. The can is at the end of the road, and a decision is urgent. 

We’ll hear a call on air passenger duty (APD): The industry has made a robust and evidence-based case on the competitiveness challenge posed by APD.

The SNP Government in Scotland has accepted our case and is moving with lightning speed to cut the tax there by half by 2018.

While making this case to HM Treasury has been a bigger challenge, the industry remains united behind the call from the ‘A Fair Tax on Flying’ campaign for the Government to reduce APD across the UK immediately by 50%, to ensure that the whole country is able to compete and grow.

We’ll hear a call for Atol reform: The implementation deadline for the reformed Package Travel Directive is January 2018 – a mere 18 months away.

Abta has been working closely with the aviation minister and key Government officials, raising the views of Abta members on critical issues since the directive passed into EU law. 

As the Government begins a formal period of consultation, it will be important for the industry, irrespective of the decision made tomorrow, to work with the Government to create a clearer, more level regulatory regime.

So the message from Travel Matters today will be: prioritise and support our industry, so that we can grow, and so that we can support growth in the UK’s economy.


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