PM urged to create level playing field for tourism

The British tourism industry has responded
positively to the Government’s
challenge, set last summer, to create
a marketing fund of more than £100m to boost tourism. Many blue chip company
chief executives were even invited to a reception in Downing Street last week to be told how important their
efforts were.

“A Royal Wedding, Her Majesty’s Diamond
Jubilee and of course the London Olympic and Paralympic Games offer us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not just for national pride and
celebration, but also to promote this country as the perfect tourist
destination, helping to create 50,000 new jobs and bring £2 billion more visitor
spending to the UK,” Mr Cameron told
them.

However, The Times newspaper Business Editor David
Wighton today (11 January) challenges the Government to walk the talk of its support for the tourism
industry.

Picking up on the fact that the
Prime Minister, in his
meeting with tourism industry chiefs
last week, put the industry right at the top of the list of industries crucial
to the country’s economic future, Wighton said it was all “great stuff”, but
pointed out that “few chief executives would ask their staff to deliver such
ambitious targets when they have just pushed through a big price increase and
slashed the marketing budget”.

The budget cut he refers to is the squeeze on
VisitBritain, the national tourism
marketing agency. The price increase is the rise in VAT.

Wighton reminds the Government that the UK
tourism industry is estimated to employ 2.7m people and generate £114 billion a
year to the economy.

“Tourism,” he says, “is the one area where
VAT poses a competitiveness problem. Most other European countries charge a much
lower rate of VAT on hotel rooms and restaurants for this very reason.
France’s rate is 5.5 per cent
and Germany has just cut it from 19 per
cent to eight per cent.”

Wighton says nobody in the industry expects
the Government to level this playing
field any time soon. “But if it
means what it says about taking the
industry seriously, it must help as much as possible elsewhere. Making planning
permission easier to secure,” he says, “would be a good place to
start”.

Visit Britain’s Chief Executive Sandie Dawe
echoes the Prime Minister’s line and
tells CN there will be plenty of
opportunity for more companies to sign up to the new marketing campaign “which
will put Britain on the wish list of the fast growing Asian and Latin
American markets, and revitalise our
appeal in core markets such as near Europe and the USA.

“Britain is poised to host an
unprecedented series of events over the next few years. This will offer us a
golden opportunity to showcase ourselves to the world, and to work with
partners, to present compelling offers and reasons to visit
now.”

Do you have an opinion to share with us about the UK
tourism industry? Contact: conferencenews@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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