Boost for tourism chiefs as travel tax scrapped
TOURISM chiefs are anticipating another bumper year following the scrapping of the air travel tax from today.
Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar announced yesterday that air passengers would now pay zero tax instead of €3 per flight for flights departing from Irish airports.
A Ryanair spokesman said the scrapping of the tax was instrumental in the budget airline launching 20 new routes from Dublin, Knock and Shannon airports this summer.
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said the removal of the tax would help boost tourism numbers.
He said: "This was a tax on consumers. We're working in a very fragile environment at the moment and anything that can bring competitiveness into play is a big win for Ireland."
He said new direct flights announced by Aer Lingus to Toronto and San Francisco this summer as well as extended services to the Middle East this year were expected to lead to a double-digit increase in tourism numbers from those destinations this year.
Shannon Airport will also announce nine new routes that will start this summer, with direct flights to Munich, Paris, Faro, Warsaw, Krakow, Nice, Poitiers, Berlin, Fuerteventura and Bristol.
Mr Gibbons said new routes launched last summer into Shannon from Chicago and Philadelphia had all been retained, with increased capacity, which he called "very encouraging".
However, he said the threat of industrial action looming as a result of the pensions dispute between Aer Lingus and the Dublin Airport Authority would be unfortunate. "No one wants to see a strike," he said.
However, he said there were record numbers of passengers from North America, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany and Spain last year and tourism officials were keen to "build on those numbers".
Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary described the €3 air travel tax as a "mindlessly stupid policy".
"The idea of actually taxing tourists before they got here instead of (welcoming) the tourists in here first and then taxing them once you got them on the island was inanely stupid," he said.
He described the removal of the tax as an "amazing incentive" for people to visit Ireland.