Mid and East Antrim calls for ‘proper support’ from Treasury on tourism and economy

The Treasury must scrap Air Passenger Duty (APD) in order for Northern Ireland to realise its tourism potential, Mid and East Antrim Council has said.

Earlier this year the local authority backed a motion calling on the Government to review the current levels of APD and VAT.

Gobbins cliff path.

Gobbins cliff path.

Elected Members supported a motion by Cllr Audrey Wales MBE, who said the tourism sector is at a clear competitive disadvantage due to the current levies.

At their June meeting, they agreed to write to HM Treasury outlining how the doing away of APD and reduction of VAT would provide a major boost.

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, said: “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.”