BHA chairman Nick Varney has called on the new government to take tourism more seriously.
British Hospitality Association chairman Nick Varney has advised the new government to move responsibility for the promotion of UK tourism to a new department.
Speaking at the BHA Summit in London last week, Varney said that under the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, where it is currently based, the industry had been “been undervalued and underappreciated for too long”.
He explained that under the DCMS, tourism had become a “second tier priority” and should now be transferred to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. Varney, also chief executive of amusement park operator Merlin Entertainments, commented: “Our industry has for too long been under-appreciated and undervalued. We need to change this because the policy issues before us are existential for many of our members and of prime importance for our country’s future, not least in the vital area of job creation.
“It will not be regarded as a serious industry within government until that happens and the much-aspired-to ‘seat at the table’ will continue to be in another room.”
Regarding the seaside tourism sector, Varney reiterated the BHA’s call for the government to reduce VAT on attractions admission, accommodation and restaurants from 20 to five percent. He described it as a “silver bullet solution” to numerous challenges that businesses faced, such as rising costs, and said that when it came to consumers, price is the biggest factor in determining success or failure in the international tourism market.
“Reducing VAT on accommodation and visitor attractions now and restaurants later, will lock in the competitive advantage, allow the industry to better absorb cost pressures and be the much needed tonic to drive the revival of depressed parts of the UK, such as coastal communities,” Varney said.
With an eye on last week’s general election, the BHA chairman lamented “the still unappreciated value of hospitality and tourism to the UK economy and its vital role in providing entry level jobs” and admonished the “bidding war” between political parties for their “vote-winning policies” on minimum and national living wage without considering businesses’ ability to absorb the increased costs.
He commented: “We would all like to pay our people more, invest in more training and ensure they have pensions. The problem is that these policies are being dropped on us by politicians with little experience of business and even less understanding of the disproportionate hit to large people employers such as those in hospitality and tourism.
“Add to this the looming uncertainties of Brexit, whether they be possible barriers to trade or visa restrictions on EU workers and you have a tax-generating, core job-creating industry under serious threat of competitive disadvantage just when the economy needs it most.”