Tourism Action Plan is a step in the right direction

Coinslot Ufi Ibrahim Tourism
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Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, says the government’s Tourism Action Plan offers a positive framework for change, although high tourism VAT and continual under-investment continue to hold back growth.

Following the recent publication of the Tourism Action Plan, we welcome the Government’s clear commitment to supporting the tourism industry right across the UK and congratulate the Coastal Communities Minister on his efforts to promote the Great British coast as one of our greatest tourism assets.

Coastal tourism alone supports more jobs than the steel, pharmaceutical and aerospace industries combined, and it is often the cornerstone of local economies in these regions. Yet many of these communities face serious social and economic challenges. That is why we are calling on the covernment to appoint a Seaside Tsar to oversee the delivery of Coastal Investment Strategy that brings together tourism, infrastructure, education and enterprise.

The BHA and its members have been campaigning to ensure that the voice of the industry is heard loud and clear. Sustained investment and a joined-up Government and industry approach is needed ensure that the UK’s tourism industry continues to excel, attracting more visitors, creating more jobs and strengthening local economies to the benefit of the whole of the UK, particularly those rural and coastal communities outside of London.

But work remains – particularly in the area of VAT. At 20 percent, the UK’s rate of tourism VAT is more than five times that of Switzerland. A reduction in tourism VAT would create 123,000 jobs and improve the UK’s trade balance of payments by £20bn over 10 years and generate investment for regional businesses right across the country.

When the prime minister enjoyed her holiday abroad a few months back, we took the opportunity to urge the Government to lower the rate of tourism VAT to five percent so that those millions who choose to holiday at home are not unfairly disadvantaged by the UK’s disproportionately high rate of tourism VAT.

Earlier in the year, things looked like they could be progressing when a senior cabinet minister said that the Brexit referendum vote could lead to a cut in the rate of VAT levied on tourism.

John Whittingdale, former secretary of state for culture, media and sport, was speaking at a British Hospitality Association (BHA) summit in London when he said: “If we wanted, for example, to abolish VAT on accommodation or attractions, we could now do so. We couldn’t have done when we were in the European Union.”

The remarks by the Minister, who oversees tourism and hospitality in the UK, were warmly welcomed by representatives of businesses from across the UK industry.

Mr Whittingdale was echoing remarks by Nick Varney, chairman of the BHA and chief executive of Merlin Entertainments, who has said: “Tourism and leisure can continue to grow under Brexit. Initially a weaker pound will encourage visitors and also exports will flourish.

“We should seize the moment and lock in that competitive advantage with a permanent cut to VAT for accommodation and attractions, and possibly in the future also for restaurants.”

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