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Published on Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Abandon airport expansion - specialist operators issue -¬---green tourism-¬~ manifesto


Independent tour operators have rejected pressure for UK airport expansion as part of a "green tourism" manifesto ahead of the May 6 general election.
The 140-member Association of Independent Tour Operators strongly opposes increased airport capacity and has called for Air Passenger Duty to be scrapped.
AITO chairman Derek Moore said: "We should be looking at better managing the capacity that we currently have - ensuring that planes fly full, for example - as a key priority.
"The airline industry is already in a parlous state, with BA teetering on the verge of strike-ridden chaos and with collapses galore over the past decade, leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded abroad or stuck in the UK without their paid-for holiday. 
"A considerable number of US airlines are in Chapter 11 - basically, they are insolvent. So let"s reject increased airport capacity and get back to basics." 
AITO described much criticised APD as a "red herring" and called for the tax to be abolished and replaced by a strategy of flying aircraft full and ensuring that passengers offset their travel. That way, the environment would benefit positively, according to the specialist operators grouping.
"The Government claims it"s an environmental tax, but the industry has yet to see proof of a single penny of this not-inconsiderable tax going into the green coffers or being used for green purposes," the organisation said. 
"It affects countries which rely on tourism - e.g. the Caribbean - by increasing the cost for families to travel there by a considerable amount and possibly causing fewer to holiday there." 
AITO also wants financial protection for travellers to be widened.
"It makes no sense for people sitting in adjacent seats on a plane to find out, when an airline goes bust, that one of them is protected because he/she booked via a tour operator and the other isn"t because he/she booked on line direct with the airline," it said. 
AITO has sent submissions both to the EU and to the Government on the issue in the past two months, advocating the "beefing-up" of consumer protection. 
The association also whole-heartedly backed industry calls for a dedicated tourism minister. 
"For too long the industry has been passed from pillar to post, with a huge number of so-called tourism ministers over the past decade," AITO said. 
"In reality, these people never responded to requests for meetings or got to grips with the huge employer that tourism is, whether inbound, outbound or domestic. 
"Part of such a minister"s role would be not only to safeguard jobs in the tourism sector but also to help create new roles,thus reducing the number of unemployed people in the UK."
Moore added: "Specialist AITO companies are naturally closer to their destinations, and AITO companies have been involved in so-called green/environmental issues now for 22 years; this is no flash in the pan.  Accordingly, AITO"s Manifesto for the Government has a distinctly green slant.   
"AITO is focused on people and places - the economic and environmental/social impact of holiday trips can be hugely positive if correctly managed. 
"Ours is a commonsense manifesto and it"s very workable, to the benefit of all - from UK unemployment figures through to the destinations we like to visit in our leisure time, both at home and abroad. 
"We hope that the new Government, whichever party it proves to be post the May elections, will take this on board and will work closely with the travel industry going forward.
by Phil Davies 

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