We're losing what little confidence we had in the British government's ability to see itself as others see it, but we will once again join the chorus of voices heaping scorn on the U.K.'s Air Passenger Duty.
The tax, which is going up again next month, has been denounced by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the Association of British Travel Agents, ASTA, most airlines, the Caribbean Tourism Organization and numerous other destination representatives, plus quite a number of bloggers and editorial writers, including ours.
The WTTC employed Oxford Economics to put a number on the damage that the tax is doing, and it came up with the conclusion that the British economy would be better off without the tax than with it, to the tune of 4.2 billion pounds, or $6.6 billion. Also on the plus side: 91,000 British jobs.
Life would be simpler if we didn't have to form opinions on the tax policies of foreign countries. It's hard enough to keep up with one country. But this tax long ago ceased to be a purely British controversy. With the latest increase, a family of four in England planning a trip to Florida is looking at a tax of 260 pounds, or $408. For some families, that's a deal breaker, and that makes it our business.
The U.S.-U.K. travel market can't afford this burden. According to the Commerce Department, U.S.-originating travel to the U.K. peaked at 3.8 million travelers in 2005 and has fallen by a third since then. And while the 2011 data are not yet compiled, U.K.-originating travel to the U.S. declined in 2009 and again in 2010.
There are many forces at work inhibiting travel in these important markets, but this tax is making them worse.