APD drops in Northern Ireland

By | Category: Travel rumblings

© Dan Sperrin

What are we to make of the government decision to reduce APD for transatlantic flights out of the province from £60 to £12? The government says it is answer a particular case whereby residents of Northern Ireland can travel to Dublin and only pay €3 instead of £60.
Obviously you can travel to Dublin and back for less than the £52 difference whether you use the car or a coach. Continental Airlines, which provides a service from Belfast to New York, says that it has been paying the tax itself but that it wouldn’t continue to do so. Obviously, that meant that at some stage Continental would drop the service. It seems to me that the government in the form of the chancellor not the tourism minister, has caved in to the airline and decided on economic grounds to adjust APD to a more competitive rate.
But if it sees the value there, why doesn’t it do it elsewhere? We compete with Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris to name just three to bring visitors into the UK. Yet the Netherlands has no duty having found out what a disaster for the economy it was. Now some regional airports want regional variations to attract visitors and business to them and away from Heathrow and Gatwick. ( Although given that Norwich has just doubled its administration levy to £10 per passenger, not every airport is behind a tax reducing system! Since they introduced a development fee, the number of passengers has more than halved. I wonder why? Not all can be blamed on the economic downturn.)
When will this government realise that every other country is fighting for visitors, visitors who come and spend a lot not just business people who fly in and out the same day or the next with nary time to visit the outside of their meetings let alone visit an attraction? We could easily match the government’s targets of an extra 4 million visitors by using APD as an instrument of marketing. And that applies to domestic tourism as well. Cut out this £12 APD for domestic flights. It can’t be helping since trains can often be more expensive than the flights are. But just as Ryanair, Go and easyJet showed that inexpensive tickets encouraged people to visit and explore, so removing APD will go some way to help.

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