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Time to kill airport taxes: Manitoba minister

Sept. 19, 2014, Winnipeg - Manitoba's tourism minister is calling on the federal government to phase out its airport tax and airport-security tax as a way of boosting tourist spending in Canada.


September 19, 2014
By The Winnipeg Free Press

"These are things they realistically could phase out without hitting
their budget too hard and not hurt security or what's going on in the
airports," Ron Lemieux said in an interview following an address to a
national tourism-industry forum Wednesday in Winnipeg.

 

"I would like to see it done as early as three years and as late as five. But I really think it could be done in three."

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Canadian Airport Council figures show
Canadian airports paid $291 million in airport taxes (rent) last year,
including $6.8 million by the Winnipeg Airports Authority. And the
airport-security fee, which is paid by air travellers, brought in an
additional $636 million.

 

In his address to the Maximum Velocity II: Destination Canada forum,
Lemieux said both taxes drive up the cost of airfares because the
airport tax is also passed on to air travellers.

 

He said all of the provincial premiers
and tourism ministers agree ways must be found to attract more tourists
to Canada, and two ways of doing that are reducing airfares and
improving air service.

 

There were two main themes that emerged
on the first day of the two-day forum, where delegates from across the
country discussed the barriers facing Canada's tourism industry and ways
to strengthen its competitive position. One is the need to reduce air
transportation costs, and the other is the need for the Canadian Tourism
Commission (CTC) to start marketing Canada

again in the U.S. market.

 

The commission halted its U.S. marketing
campaign four years ago in favour of targeting tourists in overseas and
emerging markets. However, Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC)
president and CEO David Goldstein told forum participants the number of
overnight visits to Canada has fallen by 20 per cent since the Sept 11,
2001, terrorist attacks, and it's estimated up to 85 per cent of those
four million lost tourists are Americans.

 

During that same 12-year
period, Canada's ranking as an international tourist destination plunged
from seventh to 17th, Goldstein added.

 

He said TIAC has also called on the CTC
to resume marketing Canada to U.S. tourists. He noted the U.S economy is
improving, its dollar has strengthened against the loonie and more
Americans now have passports.

 

"Times have changed… and the provinces are very much on board on this," Goldstein said. "So I think the timing is right."

 

Maxime Bernier, Canada's minister of
state for small business, tourism and agriculture, was the

luncheon
speaker at Wednesday's forum.

 

He said the federal
government will be appointing a new CEO for the CTC this fall, and,
"I'll be sure… to explain to the new CEO that the U.S. market is
important and we have to find ways to get back to investing in the U.S.
market."

 

Goldstein and Travel Manitoba president
and CEO Colin Ferguson said later although Bernier didn't say the
federal government would be increasing its funding to the CTC, they were
nevertheless encouraged to hear him say the CTC needs to get back into
the U.S. market.

 

Bernier did not address the issue of
aviation taxes during his speech, and an aide said afterward he didn't
have time to speak to reporters.