He said however, that further measures are needed to address the double payment of air passenger duty by those flying in and out of Northern Ireland.
Stewart Dickson MLA said: “We face great difficulties attracting people to Northern Ireland due to our unique geographical position, with stiff competition from the Republic of Ireland, where air passenger duty is levied at 3 euros per journey. This legislative change could start to bring us towards a level playing field with our Southern neighbours and has the potential to enhance our capacity to attract new business and tourists. This is progress but it is not the end of the story. As we look to strengthen our position within future global markets, we must seek to use this momentum to build upon our successes.
“It is essential that we continue to push for further devolution of regional air-travel regulation if we are to meet our long-term goals, and in this regard I would urge the Executive to lobby and fight for greater Treasury cooperation in redressing this inconsistency.
“The track record of our air-travel sector in contributing to the economy and employment market here is clear for all to see, and on this basis there is a rationale for further extending the faculty to set our own rates to include travel closer to home. The fact remains that current short-haul rates continue to have a detrimental impact on regional flights within the UK as they place a premium on our connectivity with Great Britain. Local consumers are further disadvantaged by the double payment of Air Passenger Duty on flights to other short-haul destinations, such as when transitting through one of the London hub airports but not on a through connection, owing to limited access to direct flights and through carriers.
“The devolution of long-haul Air Passenger Duty rates is an opportune step forward on the road to addressing the disparity in Northern Ireland air-travel.”