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WTM 2010: WTTC head condemns APD and Heathrow block

The head of the World Travel and Tourism Council slammed the UK’s tax on flights and the ban on Heathrow expansion as “complete nonsense” on the opening day of World Travel Market.

WTTC president and chief executive Jean-Claude Baumgarten told Travel Weekly: “The rises in Air Passenger Duty last week do not make sense. Here is an industry that is resilient, that is going to grow, that governments have to use to relaunch the economy – and the government is using airlines as tax collectors. We have to react strongly.

“Prime minister David Cameron said he considers travel and tourism important. But it was lip service. The government cannot say it will help developing countries and increase tax on flights to the Caribbean and Africa.”

Baumgarten added: “The ban on expanding Heathrow is complete nonsense. London is the world’s biggest financial centre. Heathrow is the world’s biggest airport. Of course, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt will benefit [at London’s expense].”

The WTTC will today report that travel and tourism’s contribution to world GDP has risen by 2% this year – four times the rate previously forecast. However, Baumgarten warned: “The world will generate two billion new travellers in the next 30 years. Are we equipped? How will we handle five times more passengers at airports and immigration?”

WTM chairman Fiona Jeffery echoed Baumgarten’s remarks at the show’s opening ceremony, saying: “APD is wholly wrong.” She warned of “an inevitable impact on jobs, destinations and tourism’s contribution to GDP” and said: “This industry has backbone, but it needs greater recognition from governments.”

Baumgarten will stand down as WTTC head on November 15 when former Opodo chief executive David Scowsill takes over, but he will continue part-time as vice-chairman.

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