Now, Austria

Don’t countries want us to visit them? Have many got a tourism death wish that they cannot understand?
Austria has decided to follow Germany and introduce an eco-tax from January 2011 on passengers leaving from its airports. Just in time for the skiing season, the time when the largest number of visitors will be expected. They will charge €8 to fly to a European destination and €40 elsewhere. And how much will this tax bring them? Estimates vary from between €50-€70 million per year.

And how much will they lose as visitors decide to go elsewhere? Yet again, the daft feature of this is that the tax is charged only to airline passengers. Take a train; pay nothing. Drive; pay nothing. Fly into neighbouring Hungary or Slovakia and pay nothing. Bratislava Airport in Slovakia is just 37 miles from Vienna. Guess what airlines like Ryanair, and easyJet might do? Yes, move their Austrian flights to Bratislava because it will be cheaper for passengers. Guess which country might lose out in revenue and visitors? Austria.

It might be different if Austria was an island like Ireland or Great Britain. There are fewer options in evading APD. But for Austria to make this tax work efficiently, it would need neighbouring countries to introduce similar rates. Remember the Netherlands? They scrapped their tax from July 2009 and whilst we were told it was because the economic conditions had already caused a decrease in air passenger numbers did anyone believe that was the reason? Nothing to do with a decline in incoming visitors of course.

We know that our government is trying its best to stop us going abroad by raising the tax known as Air Passenger Duty as from 1st November. Then if you fly to Europe (or up to 2,000 miles) you will pay £12 (up by £1 and up from £5 in 2007); if you fly between 2 and 4,000 miles (this includes, Egypt, Israel, Canada, United States then will pay £60. (up by £15 and up from £20 in 2007) To anywhere between 4 and 6,000 miles which includes the Caribbean and India, the tax is up £25 to £75 (it was only £20 in 2007) and if you fly to Australia, New Zealand or the Far East then you will pay £85, up by £30. (Only £20 in 2007) If you fly business class the taxes are doubled again.

This tax also deters people from visiting us because they have to pay it when they return home. For the UK tourism is counted in the billions of pounds. How much can afford to deter the visitor to our shores? When will they start going elsewhere? Now is the answer.

Air Asia has said that it will not now operate from Manchester to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia because of APD being too high. The airline will now operate a Paris-KL flight instead.

According to “The Times,” the UN is considering a climate tax on airline tickets to raise $6 billion a year, half to be retained by the countries that raise the tax and the other to be used for… Who is going to administer that one? And how will the tax be distributed?
Not far away is the panto season. And we all know what happened to the goose that laid the golden egg!