Northern Ireland's tourism industry will be dealt a major blow this autumn when new taxes are implemented for airline passengers, the head of a leading travel association has warned.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, has voiced concern about the adverse impact November's Air Passenger Duty (APD), a hike of more than 33%, will have on the local industry.
"In 2008, there were more than 8.2 million passengers passing through Northern Ireland's airports . Considering that 75% of visitors to the UK enter by air, this tax will significantly increase the holiday expense of the majority of those visitors Northern Ireland is trying to attract," he said.
Mr Tanzer made the comments in response to Northern Ireland's tourism strategy which aims to grow visitor revenue to £1bn by 2020, and visitor numbers to 4.5 million.
He added: "The Northern Ireland tourism strategy is ambitious, bold, and is a great example of the immense potential offered by a fully integrated strategy.
"However, we believe that outbound tourism is not adequately addressed in this strategy, and nor is the impact of a considerable increase in Air Passenger Duty."
"Northern Ireland's residents spend £77m annually on outbound travel. Outbound tourism is a considerable source of wealth and job creation in Northern Ireland in terms of travel agents, tour operators, and employees of airports, and should not be relegated to the sidelines. The potential for further taxation on aviation will impede Northern Ireland's attractiveness as a destination for international holidaymakers and business tourism alike."