Global tourism leaders have expressed disbelief at the rise in Air Passenger Duty (APD) due in November.

United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) secretary-general Taleb Rifai told a Tourism Society meeting in London on July 14: “The whole world is complaining.”

Rifai said: “We face a serious drop in demand, and governments raising taxes on travel is absolutely the wrong thing to do. I cannot understand why the UK government would deprive the poorest countries by deterring visitors. APD is taxing people who simply want to move about.”

UNWTO leaders were in the UK to meet tourism minister Barbara Follett, and to argue that travel and tourism can stimulate the economy.

Assistant secretary-general Geoffrey Lipman said: “We have begun in the UK because the government has got this wrong. APD is a cynical attempt to raise revenue. Tourism is a sector that can help.”

However, Lipman warned that convincing major governments to value tourism could take “maybe five years”.