But industry coalition the Tourism Alliance hit out at ministers. The Alliance said funds to attract overseas visitors to regional airports could be rendered “useless” by Air Passenger Duty (APD).
The Government urged airports and airlines to bid for funding to help launch new routes last Thursday.
There will be up to £17.5 million available this year through the Regional Air Connectivity Fund, announced in 2013 and open to airports with fewer than five million passengers a year.
VisitEngland chief executive James Berresford (pictured) said: “This is great news for English regions and a great opportunity for regional airports to change the way people visit this country.”
He said: “VisitEngland has a proven track record of working with destination management organisations and regional airports to drive up passenger traffic through marketing campaigns that promote new and existing routes.
“Our efforts rebalance English tourism so that regions have a better chance of growing their local economies, jobs and inward investment through tourism.”
Berresford added: “The government’s new funding announcement provides a fantastic opportunity to expand this work with our regional partners and drive more visitors direct to the regions.”
However Tourism Alliance chairman Ufi Ibrahim, who heads the British Hospitality Association, called it “perverse” to allocate new funds “with the aim of bringing more international tourists to Northern England when the devolution of APD to the Scottish Parliament makes Northern England’s airports uncompetitive and they have to close international routes”.
The government will make £56 million available over three years, with £17.5 million open to bids in 2015-16 and about £20 million a year for each of the remaining years.
Aviation minister Robert Goodwill said last week: “Smaller airports are vital to local economies.
“I want to encourage the industry to apply to expand their routes, to generate UK growth and jobs.”
Sourced from Travel Weekly