ABTA has responded to Northern Ireland’s tourism strategy by complimenting the scope of its strategy to grow visitor revenue to £1 billion by 2020 (doubling current income from tourism), to grow visitor numbers to 4.5 million by 2020 (from 3.2 million) and to increase visitors from North America, Far East, Asia, Australia and New Zealand from 2011-12 – but ABTA’s Chief Executive Mark Tanzer points out that neither the outbound tourism sector nor the proposed increase in APD in November have been properly considered.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said: “The Northern Ireland tourism strategy is ambitious, bold and is a great example of the immense potential offered by a fully integrated strategy. However, we believe that outbound tourism is not adequately addressed in this strategy, and nor is the impact of a considerable increase in Air Passenger Duty which is planned for November this year.”
“Northern Ireland’s residents spend £77 million annually on outbound travel. Outbound tourism is a considerable source of wealth and job creation in Northern Ireland in terms of travel agents, tour operators and employees of airports, and should not be relegated to the sidelines.
“There is also no discussion of the adverse impact November’s Air Passenger Duty (APD) increase is sure to have on Northern Ireland’s travel and tourism industry. In 2008, there were more than 8.2 million passengers passing through Northern Ireland’s airports . Considering that 75% of visitors to the United Kingdom enter by air, this tax will significantly increase the holiday expense of the majority of those visitors Northern Ireland is trying to attract .
“In their manifesto, the Liberal Democrats outlined an additional tax intake from reformed APD of £3.06 billion on top of this year’s estimated £2.4 billion APD intake . If the Conservatives agree to go along with this Liberal Democrat proposal, taxation on aviation in the UK, one of Northern Ireland’s most important lifelines to the world, will increase the cost of air travel exponentially.
Northern Ireland as a whole now competes internationally to attract visitors and tourism spend. The draft strategy has undertaken that ‘2011 onwards will provide real opportunities from North America, the Far East, and Asia’. This would mean that targeted visitors would be subject to Bands B and C taxation. Therefore, in considering the November APD increase on an economy fare ticket within these Bands, the duty will rise more than 33%, further ensuring that these opportunities wither away. The potential for further taxation on aviation will impede Northern Ireland’s attractiveness as a destination for international holidaymakers and business tourism alike”.