Thursday, July 19, 2012

PATA seeks aligned advocacy

Neelam Mathews
July 19, 2012

Looking for opportunities to promote ‘aligned advocacy’ with other stakeholders such as IATA, UNWTO and WTTC, Pacific Asia Travel Association’s (PATA’s) CEO Martin J Craigs met with Lord Stephen Green, UK Minister of State for Trade and Investment in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on July 9. Craigs said he recognised the vital importance of London as a regional and global hub, and as an international center city of influence, reach and business opportunities.

Craigs, a UK national, described how the controversial UK Air Passenger Duty (APD) was having a detrimental impact on the travel and tourism industry, not least because of the rise in the tax by 8% as of April 1, 2012. The amount raised from this tax was more than the combined projected profits of all 233 IATA airlines in 2012. Craigs asked for the APD to be capped or, as a minimum, not to be raised at a higher rate than UK inflation.

The PATA CEO pressed the point that the APD was damaging the UK's good reputation for fairness and free trade. He told Lord Green that the issue was consistently raised with him by Asian ministers and business leaders. Craigs pointed out that the Australian government, after a sustained advocacy campaign by business and other interests, had reversed its position on its equivalent of APD. In France and Germany equivalent taxes were considerably less than those of the UK, said Craigs.

The EU Emissions Trading Scheme
Lord Green accepted that the inclusion of the aviation sector in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) since January 1, 2012 had elicited strong opposition from international aviation organisations and non EU countries including USA and China. The Minister said that the UK government was monitoring the situation closely but cautioned that there was strong support from the European Parliament for the inclusion of aviation. Craigs noted that: “A Global solution via ICAO was the long term goal, which IATA is energetically working on.”

UK Aviation Strategy
During the July 9 meeting, the PATA CEO also expressed concern about the apparent lack of a coherent UK aviation strategy.The government had previously ruled out a third runway largely due to the environmental impact on south west London. The Minister said he also believed that with the introduction of more A380’s and new 787s, environmental noise issues would abate. 

The Minister told the PATA CEO that there was now a closer alignment with future planning for high speed rail links and aviation hubs. Furthermore, in the medium term, fast rail would reduce the dependence on internal flights between UK cities.

Lord Green stated that the UK government was committed to the success of the aviation industry. He said that five government ministers were visiting the Farnborough International Air Show 2012 including the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Business Secretary Vince Cable. But he also suggested that airlines need to play their part in opening up new routes in Asia.

The Heathrow Experience
Martin Craigs raised concerns about the Heathrow experience for passengers. This included the issue of lengthy queues at border control which risked putting off Asian business partners, investors and tourists. Lord Green agreed that capacity was an issue and since Heathrow routinely runs at 98% capacity when there was a glitch it tended to have immediate consequences for passengers. However, Lord Green said that Terminal 5 was world class and the new Terminal 2 will be even better -- so that Heathrow had a good story to tell. 

Security Issues and the UK Border Agency
Lord Green pointed out that security remained the highest priority for the UK government. He also said that the UK Border Agency’s programme of ‘exporting’ the UK border and improving the system for issuing visas, whilst a work in progress, was going well. He said that the UKBA was now represented in 12 Chinese cities.

Lord Green noted that there was cause for optimism that the Schengen Area visa requirements might be harmonised with UK requirements in light of French and German interest in biometric technology. There would still be a requirement for two separate visas but it might be possible for passengers to receive these simultaneously.

Possible PATA Event, London, March 2013
It was tentatively agreed that there could be a joint UK-PATA conference held in London in March 2013 and a further PATA event in China in the second half of 2013.

The next PATA Hub City Forum will be in Sydney on October 23. Numerous locations including India, UAE, Japan, Korea and Chinese Taipei are slated to host the Forums in 2013. 

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