Autumn Budget brings mixed news for industry

Freeze on Air Passenger Duty to be paid for by increase in cost of premium-class flight tickets.

Image credit: iStock
Image credit: iStock

Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond made his Autumn Budget speech in parliament today.

Among the points of interest for the events industry were a freeze on Air Passenger Duty for long and short haul flights, which is to be paid for by an increase in the cost of premium class (business class and above) long-haul tickets.

A cut in business rates by £2.3 billion has been brought forward two years and there was also a pledge of £500 million for investment in artificial intelligence, 5G and full-fibre broadband.

Louise Goalen, chair of HBAA, the trade association for the hotel booking agency, apartment and venue community, was disappointed by the lack of measures to help the meetings and hospitality industry. 

"Financial incentives or assistance for young people to train and to encourage talent in the hospitality and events sector are needed to help reduce youth unemployment and prepare for the declining number of EU workers coming here, a massive and vital resource for this sector," said Goalen.

"HBAA hoped that the chancellor would address this in his Autumn Budget. While £20 million for further education colleges for T-levels (technical qualifications) is good news, we need more investment in hospitality sector training."

American Express Global Business Travel’s vice president for Northern Europe Jason Geall, was unhappy with the outcome for air travellers.

"We are extremely disappointed by the chancellor’s decision to increase air passenger duty (APD) on long-haul business travel," said Geall. "On one hand the government talks about forging new trade relationships with non-EU marketplaces, while on the other it increases the cost for businesses to travel and trade. 

"What was initially introduced as an environmental tax has become a stealth tax on trade. This is a massively shortsighted decision made by a chancellor who purports to be pro-business."

Dale Parmenter, CEO of drp, thought the budget was a missed opportunity to provide a boost for the events sector. He said: "There was not a lot for small and medium businesses in the budget, many of the companies in our sector come under that banner. It’s a missed opportunity, bearing in mind how much revenue our industry brings to the treasury each year. Additionally, there was very little around investment in people, such as training to encourage growth in the events sector."

However, events organisers planning evening functions will be pleased that duties on wine, spirits and beer will be frozen next year.

That sentiment was echoed by Mike Benner, chief executive of SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers, who said: "SIBA’s 850 brewery members will be delighted by the Chancellor’s announcement that he will freeze beer duty in this Budget, recognising the important role of the Great British pub. This is great news for brewers, pubs and consumers alike."

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