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IATA: Canada losing competitive edge in air transport, travel and tourism

Canada "is losing its competitive edge" in air transport, travel and tourism because of "excessive taxes," the International Air Transport Association (IATA), said on Thursday January 20 according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

IATA called on the Canadian government to improve its global competitiveness by working with industry to address issues of taxation, regulation, security and the environment. "Instead of having policies to welcome more visitors, Canada's excessive taxes turn them away," IATA Chief Executive Giovanni Bisignani said Thursday in a luncheon speech to the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations. Compared to the U.S., a visit to Canada is $160 more expensive, he said. Canada has fallen to 15th in the most-visited rankings from eighth in 2002, he said.

IATA said Canada should abolish its system of Crown rents, which discourages visitors and encourages Canadians to start their air travels from the U.S. "The rents are making it hard for us to compete with some of the border airports, and we're working with the government on that," Vito Culmone, WestJet Airlines Ltd.'s (WJA.T) chief financial officer, said at a CIBC World Markets conference in Whistler, B.C. "It's a difficult situation. We don't see significant changes in the short term," Culmone said.

IATA's Bisignani also urged Canada to oppose Europe's plans to bring international aviation into its emissions trading scheme and support a global approach through the International Civil Aviation Organization. Cash-strapped European countries are using the environment as "an excuse to raise taxes," he said. According to IATA, aviation accounted for 650,000 Canadian jobs and $71 billion in spending in 2009.

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