31 OCTOBER 2011

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Article from BTNews 31 OCTOBER 2011

COMMENT: Speed up the review

UK Olympics Minister, Jeremy Hunt, will open World Travel Market 2011 next Monday (7 November) at Excel in London’s Docklands, a venue for the 2012 Olympics. 

Does the Minister’s appearance at the event mean a change of Government policy to aviation with the majority of inbound tourists (and for that matter outbound too) arriving by air?  Or is it just a sop for the Games?

We could have written his speech.  If our guess is correct he will praise the travel industry and steer very much clear of Air Passenger Duty (APD) and the Government’s airport policy.  Of course he will emphasize the Olympics.  He will note that tourism contributes £115bn each year to the UK economy, and acknowledge it has the potential to be one of the fastest growing sectors in the years ahead. 

However Mr Hunt’s words are a full seven days away. 

Another Minister involved with the travel trade is actually introducing herself today at a major gathering – Justine Greening the newly appointed Secretary of State for Transport.  Her platform is the Airport Operators Association Conference.  What a pity she is not speaking on the second day when Colin Matthews (BAA), Willie Walsh (IAG) and Dan Moylan (TfL), are amongst the participants.

This Monday is really very busy as it sees the of publication of ‘Flying in the face of jobs and growth’, a report published by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).  The comprehensive 56-page document sets out recommendations that would see the UK’s aviation infrastructure improved to support growth in the private sector.  They include building additional capacity at our airports and scrapping proposed increases to APD taxation.  The report also includes analysis which demonstrates that the lack of a clear aviation policy means the UK could miss out on millions in GDP, and much needed jobs.

According to the BCC, Heathrow is still the number one as far as international traffic is concerned but we are 4th with seat availability from China and 5th from Brazil, both rapidly developing economies.  It paints a possible bleak future.

Simon Buck, Chief Executive of the British Air Transport Association, summed it up:  “This report by the BCC provides clear evidence that if Britain is to be able to compete for new business with emerging markets then we must be allowed to grow and invest in our airport infrastructure.”

Also reacting quickly to the review was Virgin Atlantic, a spokesperson saying:  “This authoritative report by British business confirms exactly what we have been saying for months.  This new research shows there is a very real risk that the UK economy could lose billions of pounds and thousands of jobs if aviation policy continues on its current path.”

“With sky-high taxes and insufficient capacity, it is clear that UK plc is being left behind the world’s major economies.  It is vital that the Government heeds these warnings and takes action to prevent this.”

Two events, the airport operators gathering and the opening of World Travel Market, a week apart, are both supported by Government Ministers.  Both are vital get-togethers.  The hosts should not be full of platitudes when speaking to their Right Honourable guests.  They should include words of listening quality. 

Comment on what is known as “the scoping document” is now closed.  Instead of waiting until sometime next spring for its assessment the Government should recognise that air travel is in crisis.  Prioritise the review.  Let us see some results before Christmas.  Tell the Ministers such.

Malcolm Ginsberg
Editor in Chief

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