The Treasury must scrap Air Passenger Duty in order for Northern Ireland to realise its full tourism potential, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has said, as latest figures show tourism was worth almost £1billion to the region last year.
Earlier this year Mid and East Antrim Borough Council backed a motion calling on the Government to review the current levels of Air Passenger Duty (APD) and VAT in Northern Ireland.
Elected Members supported a motion by Councillor Audrey Wales MBE, who said Northern Ireland’s tourism sector is at a clear competitive disadvantage due to the current levies.
At the monthly meeting of Full Council, Elected Members agreed to write to HM Treasury outlining how the doing away of APD and reduction of VAT would provide a major boost to tourism and the economy right across Northern Ireland.
The response to the Treasury’s call for evidence on VAT, APD and tourism in the region, sets out the stark limitations placed on Northern Ireland as a result of the current levies.
Speaking afterwards, Cllr Wales said: “Our tourism and hospitality industry in Northern Ireland continues to be a real success story – but there is so much more we can achieve with the proper support.
“Latest figures released just last week show there were an estimated 4.9 million overnight trips in Northern Ireland in 2017.
“This follows a report by Belfast International Airport that getting rid of APD could create almost 40,000 jobs over the next 30 years.
“According to the report, the jobs would generate additional tax revenues of £376million, with Northern Ireland opening its doors to 36 million additional passengers between 2019 and 2050.
“For me, this is a no-brainer.”
Cllr Robert Logan, who seconded the motion, added: “We have the magnificent Carrickfergus Castle – the gateway to the Causeway Coastal Route, the stunning Gobbins cliff path, a world-class spa resort in Galgorm, the UK Village of the Year in Broughshane, key sites from the iconic Game of Thrones, and, of course, St Patrick’s connections with Slemish.
“The scrapping of APD and a reduction in VAT would provide a remarkable opportunity for our businesses throughout the Borough and Northern Ireland to fully realise their potential.
“The short-haul Air Passenger Duty has made it more difficult for our airports to obtain new routes and compete with the increasingly dominant Dublin airport, while lower VAT rates across the border put local businesses at a distinct disadvantage when seeking inward investment.
“We have a duty to our citizens to be proactive and make sure those outside of Northern Ireland hear about what we have to offer.
“Our role as a Council is to go out and make sure we spread the word of how great Northern Ireland, and in particular Mid and East Antrim, really is, and to support businesses investing in our wonderful Borough.”