Heathrow expansion and need for clarity and certainty on Brexit hot topics at travel industry leaders’ event
Senior figures and industry leaders discuss priority issues at ABTA - The Travel Association’s Travel Matters event
Expansion at Heathrow - and its associated costs - were among the hot topics at ABTA - The Travel Association’s Travel Matters event today (Wednesday 27 June), following Monday’s vote in Parliament which saw the Government achieve an overwhelming majority for a third runway at Heathrow.
Speakers at the event included Baroness Sugg, the Transport Minister for Aviation, International and Security and Richard Moriarty, the new Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Addressing the audience of over 200 senior figures and leaders from the industry, Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s Chief Executive, talked about airport expansion, saying:
“The very slow process towards expanding airport capacity in the South East moved one step forward with the strong support of Parliament on Monday, progress that ABTA warmly welcomes.
“While the agreement to increase capacity sends a welcome signal about our future trade ambitions, the benefit must not be compromised by a steep rise in airport charges which will throttle demand, so it’s very important that the government keeps a close eye on this.”
Richard Moriarty, Chief Executive of the CAA said Heathrow would be ‘doing itself a disservice’ if it were to go back on its commitment to affordable charges under the new expansion plans. He also recognised the importance of the regulator’s role in making sure Heathrow expansion is delivered in a cost-effective manner for businesses and consumers, saying the CAA ‘will continue to put pressure on Heathrow to rise to the occasion.’
Brexit was also on the agenda for discussion at today’s event, ahead of the European Council meeting in Brussels later this week, and following questions raised by business leaders from a range of sectors over the weekend about the progress of negotiations.
Baroness Sugg, the Transport Minister for Aviation, International and Security spoke about a range of issues at the event, including acknowledging the importance of air travel after Brexit. On this she said the Government is making progress in its negotiations and has agreed the implementation period which will see the current arrangements continue until the end of December 2020.
In his speech opening the event, Mark Tanzer said about Brexit:
“The UK’s future as a trading nation is one of the central Brexit issues. I’m sure many in this room share my frustration at the lack of progress, or clarity, in the Brexit process. A year ago, I set out a number of areas in which we needed to see urgent progress - aviation access, movement of key workers, VAT and consumer rights.
“Twelve months’ on, and we still don’t have any clarity on any of these. On aviation access, probably the most critical issue, the Government has said that it “fully expects” that a deal will be done before March 2019. The industry, along with the rest of the nation, is holding them to account on this.
“It is right that businesses are speaking out against a ‘no deal’ exit from the EU, or a ‘cliff-edge’. The attacks on business from senior politicians show how frayed relations have become. We are surely approaching a crunch time, when hard choices will have to be made, and the Government should listen to those who have knowledge on their side, rather than just ideology.
“I do think there is a bright future for UK tourism, as we move into the Brexit transition period and beyond. Even now, in spite of general uncertainty and the devaluation of Sterling, bookings are up, in volume and value. That shows an enduring commitment to and confidence in taking holidays overseas.
“Tourism to the EU has been a huge success over the past twenty five years, and there is no doubt that both we as a source market and the EU as a destination market are committed to maintaining that success.
“Worldwide tourism continues to grow at 4% per annum, and we should challenge the Government to put travel and tourism at the heart of its industrial strategy. I believe that we, at ABTA, together with our Members, have a role to play in articulating and promoting a compelling vision, and I look forward to working with our political leaders and their departmental colleagues to build that successful future.”
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