The UK is in danger of being seen to be ‘pulling up
the drawbridge’ to trade and investment from the Asia Pacific region thanks to
impediments in aviation and access, says Martin Craigs, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association
in London for the recent PATA Hub City Forum at
the Institute of Directors
in Pall Mall, discussing strategic matters around
increasing cooperation and fostering trade with, and investment from, the
dynamic Asia Pacific region, where growth is the greatest globally.
Speaking exclusively to meetpie.com, he said: ”London this year is the ultimate
global hub city, being the host for the Olympics. But paradoxically, London is the hub city with
the most headaches when it comes to whether it wants to remain a hub city. The UK’s lack of
aviation policy suggests it may not remain engaged with the 21st century
in terms of providing the necessary aviation infrastructure.”
Craigs criticised continued stalling over plans for a
third runway at Heathrow, saying the future of Asia Pacific and British
relations - and the trickle down to business tourism and inbound and outbound
events - relied on having the best connections possible.
“I was asked recently by the Beijing Tourism Development Committee, which was the best
location for its promotional office in Europe.
London is an
obvious choice - but if you can’t get there on daily services it does start to
impact on convenience. Accessibility is at the top of the list for companies
and bizarrely Britain
is putting itself at a tipping point whether it gives away a lot of its advantages
for want of making a political decision.
effectively pulling up the drawbridge and happy to put money into domestic rail
links? Why are we building 53 airports in China
and you haven’t built a new airport in the south of England in 40 years?”
Craigs said while in the UK he had spoken directly with Stephen
Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment,
who was ‘sympathetic’ to the concerns.
Craigs added: “Asian governments intuitively
get it, the importance of building travel and tourism as an essential part of
the economy. In Europe travel, especially
aviation, has become a poster child for bad behaviour to be abused.”
Craigs also said rising Air
Passenger Duty (APD) costs in the UK
meant there were 72,000 less jobs created in the UK, according to an Oxford
“They’re saying:’“Overall air
traffic statistics haven’t gone down so the tax isn’t having a negative effect’.
That isn’t true. (APD) having a negative effect on Britain’s reputation in the world.
You can’t preach free trade to the Asian countries then enforce a disincentive
tax to visit Britain.
“(Airlines) are lifting 35 per
cent of the value of world trade in the belly of their planes, cargo or
passengers. At least freezing the tax as has been done in Australia would
be progress – even saying it will not rise above the rate of inflation would be
Pictured: PATA CEO Martin Craigs