Protectionist UK departure tax hike hits today


The Australian Tourism Export Council (ATEC) has condemned a tax hike being imposed by the UK Government from today, which will add between US$100 and US$200 to the price of a long-haul air ticket from London.

Despite condemnation from governments and tourism-industry bodies around the world, the Brown Labour Government today went ahead with a plan to change the controversial Air Passenger Duty (APD) to a distance-based charge based on a flight’s “carbon footprint.”

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ATEC managing director Matt Hingerty said the new departure tax arrangements, which will add at least US$170 to an economy ticket and nearly US$350 to the price of a business-class ticket by November 2010, were a retrograde development for the local inbound tourism industry, which is currently struggling from the effects of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).

“This APD is a total reversal of the free-trade rhetoric recently promoted by the G20 group of nations as a measure to alleviate the current GFC,” Mr. Hingerty said.

“We believe that the climate change debate is being used to disguise this protectionist departure tax in ‘greenwash’.”

“Australia is one of the countries which is hardest-hit by this new tax,” Mr. Hingerty said. “Our local tourism industry, which employs nearly 500,000 people, can ill-afford additional taxes of this nature at this time. ATEC believes that this new charge will significantly impact travel to Australia from the United Kingdom and is a critical trade barrier between the UK and Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific.”

“Despite all the recent triumphalism we have heard about some Australian sectors such as mining and finance starting to hit their straps again, trade-exposed industries such as tourism are still doing it extremely tough,” Mr. Hingerty said.

Mr. Hingerty also urged the Australian Commonwealth Government to maintain its opposition to the APD and continue to pressure the UK Government to reverse its protectionist behavior.