Tourism industry criticises airport departure tax

 

Government plans to introduce an air travel tax for all passengers departing from Irish airports have been met with criticism from the tourist industry.

Passengers on long journeys will face a departure tax of €10 from March 30th, 2009. A fee of €2 will be levied on shorter journeys of under 300 kilometres, which includes most flights within Ireland.

The tax will not apply to children under two; disabled passengers and their helpers; crew; transit passengers; passengers travelling on aircraft with less than 20 seats and those using small airlines and those servicing Ireland's offshore islands.

Mr Lenihan said this travel tax would raise an estimated €95 million in 2009 and €150 million in the full year.

The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITAA) and the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation (ITIC) criticised the introduction of the levy.

The ITAA claimed it would be “bad for Irish exporters, bad for incoming tourism and bad for our standing as a location for international companies", while the ITIC said the imposition of the tax "at a time when the aviation and travel industries are in the most precarious position in living memory is unfortunate and unwise”.

The Irish Hotels Federation president Matthew Ryan described the tax as a “soft option to create revenue which will sacrifice the long term prospects tourism industry for a short term gain”

Mr Ryan said the “hugely regressive step” will have lasting consequences on Ireland’s tourism industry.

Aer Lingus said the travel tax was "anti-consumer, anti-tourism and anti-business".

"This new tax will further damage already falling consumer demand for air travel and will put Ireland at a significant disadvantage for inbound tourism on which thousands depend for their livelihood," the airline said. It added that it believed the tax was discriminatory as it will not be deployed on an equitable basis across all Irish carriers. It also said the lower tax rate should have been applied to all UK destinations.

Fine Gael’s arts, sports and tourism spokeswoman Olivia Mitchell said the travel tax was an “attack” on Ireland’s €6.5 billion industry. “We need to be incentivising tourists and business travellers to come here, not picking their pockets as they leave,” she said.

Labour's spokesman on tourism, Senator Alan Kelly, said the new tax would harm the tourism industry.

"This was a very unwise move by the Minister, supported by the Green Party and it will have a detrimental impact on the tourism industry, which is already facing into some difficult years. Visitor numbers and revenue are substantially down this year and this will certainly not help," he said.