ABTA TRAVEL MATTERS CONFERENCE
Tax on tourism is hampering growth in the industry and a new runway is needed in the South East.
The theme of ABTA’s annual Travel Matters conference held on 18th June 2014 was ‘Targeting Growth, 2015 and beyond’. The conference boasted an impressive panel including the Under Secretary of State for Transport and the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.
Airport Passenger Duty was the main topic of conversation at the conference with industry figures calling for a commitment from the Government and/or future Government following the forthcoming election to do something to ease the burden of the tax on tourism. The consensus of opinion amongst industry figures and members of the audience was that the tax was hampering growth in tourism. Both the current Under Secretary of State for Transport and the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport were cautious in making any promises about providing any relief from the tax for the industry. Despite the strong case which was made by several speakers that the abolishment of APD would increase growth in tourism which we would in turn generate more revenue for the government and replace the need for the tax, my impression is that there will be no commitment from the main parties to do anything radical with the tax.
The general consensus of opinion was that there was a need for an extra runway in the South-East to cater for the increase in passenger traffic, but where this should be located is hotly debated between the Heathrow and Gatwick camps, with the politicians exercising caution whilst they await the Airport commission’s report. My impression is that the case for an additional runway at Heathrow seems to be the popular one.
On the Package Travel Directive, the Head of Aviation Policy for the Department of Transport commented that getting the definition right for the scope of the new directive is going to take more time, to ensure that it captures new and creative ways of trading in the digital era by travel companies.
It was clear from the themes of the day that the industry is calling for more support from the government to relieve the tax pressure on the industry to facilitate growth in outbound tourism and for a commitment to build an additional runway at Heathrow or Gatwick as soon as possible.