Europe rules, but global movers and shakers criticise taxes
ACCORDING to global tourism leaders who met in Abu Dhabi last week, bookings to Europe are well up this year, despite the British government’s air passenger duty departure tax, which adds $US142.70 ($138) to the cost of long-haul outbound flights (more than 8000km).
More than 1000 delegates attended the World Travel and Tourism Council summit, including Brett Tollman, president of The Travel Corporation, James Hogan, chief executive of Etihad Airways, Geoffrey Kent, founder and chief executive of Abercrombie & Kent, and Matthew Upchurch, chairman and chief executive of specialist travel agency Virtuoso.
‘‘Europe is still a very hot destination for Australians and the advent of Middle Eastern carriers adds to [its popularity],’’ Upchurch told The Weekend Australian. He said a recent Virtuoso poll found Aussies still favoured France and Italy as the food and wine destinations in Europe. (The poll also revealed many of us aspire to visit Myanmar, South America, Morocco and Bhutan this year.)
According to Tollman, bookings to Europe this year have been very encouraging. ‘‘There’s some pent-up demand — last year was an off year,’’ Tollman reported. ‘‘A lot of people were concerned about the collapse of the euro, [but that] was ill-founded.’’
Tollman has put some ‘‘fantastic new initiatives’’ into his Europe offers. ‘‘Pricing is better than a year ago . . . and we are seeing very strong river cruising [growth], with Uniworld [bookings] up significantly, and so are Insight and Trafalgar [cruise sales].’’
Despite this new-found Aussie passion for Europe, airline executives told fellow WTTC delegates they were not happy about tourism taxes.
International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh was particularly scathing about the British government’s long-haul tax. ‘‘Not a single penny raised through passenger duty goes to the [travel or tourism] industry or environmental issues.
‘‘[In order] to trigger economic growth, we need a fundamental change in attitude from governments in Europe. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report shows that if you scrap the tax you actually boost the economy and see a positive effect.’’
Tourism and Transport Forum lobbyists at the Abu Dhabi summit voiced their opposition to Australia’s own passenger movement charge. At $US57.50 for short-haul flights (less than 3220km), it’s one of the world’s most expensive. Lisa Allen was a guest of Etihad Airways and the World Travel and Tourism Council.