Tourism Alliance Publishes Roadmap For A New Government Focus On Tourism

The Tourism Alliance – the umbrella body for more than 75 UK tourism organisations has unveiled its new manifesto for tourism in the next Parliament, titled “Realising the Potential”.

It addresses several shortcomings in UK government policy with a 20-point plan, grouped under four themes:
• Making Travel Easier
• Allowing Tourism Businesses to Thrive
• Supporting Destinations, Places & Communities
• The UK in a Competitive Tourism Marketplace

Tourism is a large and vital component of the UK economy. After financial services, it is the most important generator of export revenue in the service sector. Pre-Covid, the tourism industry employed 3.4 million people in over 300,000 businesses spread across every constituency in the UK and it generated over £150 billion every year for local communities.

If a country gets its tourism proposition right, it is a powerful creator of jobs and prosperity. However, too often, UK government policy has not been directed towards helping it in such areas as visas, border security, employment, regulation, and VAT.

According to The World Economic Forum, the UK ranks 116th of 117 countries in terms of price competitiveness, which is largely driven by high taxes imposed on visitors; and the country ranks 76th of 117 countries in terms of tourism policy prioritisation, down from 55th place in the previous survey.

New research by the Tourism Alliance shows that central Government funding for tourism development and promotion in the UK is one of the lowest of the major global tourism destinations, with a spend of just £0.81 per person compared to an average of £5.88 across nine other competitor destinations surveyed. As a result of the low level of investment in international marketing and promotion, the UK receives just £391 per person in revenue from overseas visitors compared to an average of £689.

With Brexit, the UK could have become the undisputed shopping capital of Europe, but at the beginning of 2021 the UK closed its VAT Reclaim Scheme and became the only European country not to offer tax-free shopping to visitors. Retaining and expanding the Scheme to cover EU countries would have given the UK tourism and retail sectors a considerable competitive advantage in attracting visitors who would otherwise holiday elsewhere. Research by Oxford Economics calculated that reinstating and expanding the VAT Reclaim Scheme would boost visitor numbers to the UK by 1.6m per annum, supporting 44,000 jobs in tourism and retail, and a further 34,000 jobs in the supply chain. That would generate an additional £940m pa in tax, resulting in a net benefit to the Exchequer of £350m /year.

Tom Jenkins, Chair of the Tourism Alliance, said: “Some of these proposals involve investment. Yet many of the crucial points involve no money. It costs nothing to improve our burdensome visa process. It costs nothing to allow European schoolchildren to be able to visit the UK with their ID cards. It costs nothing to enable young people to come and work in an industry desperate for their services. Tourism is the lifeblood of communities. It is a vital component in the viability of local shops, restaurants and attractions. It sustains city centres as much as rural areas. It can be a platform for export-led prosperity. If it is to reach its manifest potential, we need political will.”
The main points of the Manifesto are:

Making Travel Easier
Extend passport-free travel schemes for educational and cultural trips
Simplify the visa application process to encourage visits from visa nationals
Introduce a new low-cost, multiple-entry visa to encourage repeat visits
Make some changes to ETAs before further roll-out to ensure the UK remains competitive
Support sustainable tourism by tackling disruption on the railways
Recognise potential disruption from EES and work with the EU and Member States to alleviate the problem
Implement a new EU-UK Mobility Agreement as part of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) review in 2026

Allowing Tourism Businesses to Thrive

Boost domestic tourism by reforming package travel laws
Reform current youth mobility schemes and significantly expand them to new countries
Ensure that tourism is a viable and valued career path for young people
Reform the Apprenticeship Levy rules so that businesses can better invest in people and skills
Reform business rates to stop tourism businesses from bearing an unfair burden

Supporting Destinations, Places, & Communities
Local Visitor Economy Partnerships (LVEP) & Destination Development Partnerships (DDP) commitment and roll out with funding
Support local authorities to invest in domestic tourism marketing and place-making
Support coastal tourism by cleaning up our beaches and water
Finally implement a new registration scheme for tourism accommodation

The UK in a Competitive Tourism Marketplace
Invest in VisitBritain’s international marketing to boost inbound tourism
Establish a new tax-free shopping regime for international visitors
Reduce the VAT rate for hospitality, events and attractions
Resist calls for further taxes on tourism
The Manifesto will be officially launched on 19th March at the English Tourism Week Parliamentary Reception, 3pm-5pm, hosted by the Tourism Alliance and The Family Holiday Charity.
The Tourism Alliance’s annual Tourism Insights Conference will take place earlier that day, 9am-2pm, at the Royal Aeronautical Society, No.4 Hamilton Place, Mayfair, London.