Air travel tax introduced in March this year should be abolished as part of a “survival framework” for the Irish tourism industry, according to a mid-term review from the Government’s Tourism Renewal Group.
The review published yesterday divided its recommendations into “survival actions” which, it said, must be taken now to ensure businesses survive until the end of 2010; and “recovery actions”, which should be put in place “to set Irish tourism back on a growth path from 2011”.
The group follows Aer Lingus and Ryanair in calling for the abolition of the travel tax of €10 per passenger travelling more than 300km from Irish airports.
Chaired by businessman Maurice Pratt, the group said the environment for Irish tourism had “changed radically for the worse since 2006,” adding change had been at “warp factor speed”.
The review detailed five key actions for survival, including maintaining investment, “sweating” tourism assets, prioritising spending and supporting sustainable enterprises. It also made nine recommendations for a recovery that Mr Pratt said may happen by 2011.
Accepting the review Minister for Tourism Martin Cullen declined to say if he would be recommending to his Cabinet colleagues that the travel tax be scrapped. He commented only that he had his “own view”, which he would share initially with Government. Mr Cullen said the renewal group also recognised the need to maintain spending on marketing and support for tourism enterprises. Ultimately, he said “the Government will of course need to consider its response within the wider context of fiscal sustainability and economic renewal”.
However, the Minister was immediately criticised by Fine Gael tourism spokeswoman Olivia Mitchell, who said he “needs to take his head out of the sand”.
Describing the departure tax as a “disaster”, she said Mr Cullen should be embarrassed that having insisted in the Dáil this year that the travel tax was not a deterrent, “the group he set up to advise him on tourism issues has slated the tax”.
She said there was strong evidence to suggest that the tax “has damaged our competitiveness and our image. The Commission on Taxation Report also highlights this issue and recommends a review”.
Abolish air travel tax
Maintain investment in marketing
Minimise wages, utility costs and rates
Sustain investment in “Ireland” brand
Make access to Ireland easier
Make getting around easier