A delegation of ministers from up to 20 countries will be in London on Monday to lobby the UK government for reform of air passenger duty (APD).

South African tourism minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, who is among those due to fly in, said the delegation would meet at least two government ministers. Van Schalkwyk said: “This tax is unfair and discriminatory. It is not an environmental tax, it is to deal with the [government] deficit.”

Speaking at the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) summit in Las Vegas, Van Schalkwyk said: “The tourism industry always says it’s over-taxed, but taxes need to be fair.”
The meeting will be in private and there will be no statement to the media. A spokesman for van Schalkwyk declined to give further details but confirmed the meeting would focus on APD.

Van Schalkwyk told the WTTC summit that developed countries could learn from the attitude of developing economies to tourism.

WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill agreed, saying: “It’s strange that it is the developed markets of the US and Europe where doors are most often closed [to the industry].” Scowsill criticised governments that lack even a dedicated tourism minister, saying: “Travel and tourism deserves a dedicated minister in every administration.”

Industry frustration with governments is not confined to the UK. Sebastian Escarrer, vice-chairman of Spanish hotel chain Sol Melia, said: “Travel is not considered properly by the

Spanish government. Spain has the highest unemployment in Europe and tourism is the only solution. But the government does not see it.”

However, United Nations World Tourism Organisation secretary-general Taleb Rifai said: “We need to look at ourselves. We have not been able to present ourselves in a coherent manner as a sector. It is important for us to come together and speak with one voice.”