21 Mar 2014

Tax move cuts UK-NZ flight cost

8:39 pm on 21 March 2014

The Tourism Industry Association says a cut to the levy on British travellers flying to New Zealand is a good step though it will still push for further reductions.

In his budget on Wednesday, UK Chancellor George Osborne announced the air passenger duty on long haul flights, which includes to New Zealand, would be cut from £97 (NZ$188) to £71 (NZ$137), or for a family of four from £388 (NZ$752) to £284 (NZ$550). The reduction will take effect from 1 April 2015.

British Airways planes at Heathrow airport in London.

British Airways planes at Heathrow airport in London. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister John Key said the duties had cut the number of British tourists coming to New Zealand, and the desire of New Zealanders to go to Britain.

Mr Key said it was not, as originally argued, a reflection of climate change policies but simply a revenue raising device and the New Zealand Government had lobbied for this change for years.

He said before the extra air passenger duties were introduced in 2008, Britain was New Zealand's second largest visitor market, surpassed only by Australia.

Tourism bodies also have been advocating for a reduction for more than three years. Tourism Industry Association spokesperson Simon Wallace said the tax, along with the strong dollar and the global financial crisis, has had a significant impact on visitor numbers.

Mr Wallace said in 2008 nearly 300,000 people visited New Zealand from the United Kingdom but last year that number had dropped to about 190,000. He said the association will be continue to lobby for further air passenger duty reductions.

At present, the UK is New Zealand's fourth largest visitor market in terms of arrivals (191,632) and third largest in terms of spend ($608 million). That had fallen from 285,094 arrivals and a spend of $1.32 billion in 2008, when the UK was this country's second largest market for both categories.

Australia, China and the United States are the top three nations that visit, according to official figures.