Tourism is going to be one of the engines of the British economy over the next few years, Covid-willing. But the government needs to step up to the plate.
Merlin Entertainments has led tourism bodies such as UKHospitality, Tourism Alliance, ETOA and UKinbound in launching SOS London, a campaign aimed at urging the government to support tourism and hospitality in the UK capital.
The attractions operator was joined by 10,776 London businesses in calling on the government to support domestic and overseas advertising campaigns, a roadmap for recovery, and an extension to the business rates holiday.
“Tourism in the capital is in crisis due to three months of London effectively being closed,” said Sunny Jouhal, GM of the Merlin-operated London Eye. “Even with the ability for some businesses to reopen, the industry is already half-way through its peak season making it impossible for many across the sector to recover.”
“London is practically empty and there is no concrete plan for recovery in place. If the UK Government does not act now, we will see one of the biggest missed opportunities on Britain’s road to recovery and prosperity.”
Tourism represents the second largest employer in London, with half of the 41 million arrivals to the UK in 2019 heading to the capital.
As well as increased marketing investment – on par with post-terror attack campaigns – SOS London is also calling for a one year extension to the business rates holiday, an increase on the Business Rate Relief threshold to £150,000 and nine months rent relief support.
VAT cut “welcome step” for Merlin
Merlin Entertainments has welcomed the 15 percentage point reduction in VAT announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak for hospitality and amusement businesses in the UK.
The tax cut, which will run until early 2021, will allow Merlin to begin recouping income lost during lockdown, and result in cheaper tickets for visitors and holidaymakers.
“We have been campaigning for a cut in tourism VAT for almost twenty years,” said Merlin CEO Nick Varney. “Over the long term we believe it will deliver cheaper UK holidays for residents and attract more overseas visitors, boosting our export earnings.”
“In the short term the cut to five percent announced today will enable hard pressed tourism and hospitality businesses to recover some of their losses from three months of closure and the impact of reduced capacity for the rest of the year.”