This morning, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) warned the government that the current immigration policy is inhibiting tourism in the UK. WTTC, an organisation which works to raise awareness of travel and tourism, believes that the UK is wasting the economic opportunity presented by travel and tourism and suggests that the government needs to change its approach and policies; including freezing Air Passenger Duty (APD) and aligning its procedures with the Schengen visa area to simplify access to the UK for travelers.
WTTC: UK Losing Out on Potential Visitors to UK
This morning, WTTC published its 2014 Economic Impact Report for the UK which reveals that the direct contribution to GDP from travel and tourism will slow this year to 2.5% after having grown by 3.4% in 2013. WTTC’s analysis has led to them stating that the UK’s “prohibitive” visa regime for tourists and the Government’s inertia over vital infrastructure projects are “seriously damaging” the economy. They have highlighted policies such as Air Passenger Duty and the visa processing system for Chinese visitors and believe that this shows that the UK government is not taking the tourism industry “seriously enough”.
Commenting on the report, David Scowsill, President and CEO of WTTC stated:
“The UK is not taking the potential of Travel & Tourism seriously enough and is losing out vital income and potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs at a time when creating employment opportunities for young people is vital. A composite of issues are contributing to a quelling of demand: Air Passenger Duty I the highest air tax in the world; the Government has ruled out a lower VAT rate for hotels and restaurants; a lack of long-term planning in airport infrastructure; and restrictive visa policies. This means the UK is losing out on potential visitors to some of its European competitors, who are implementing more forward-thinking policies”.
Managing Director of Harrods Echoes WTTC Findings
Last week, Michael Ward, managing director of Harrods stated that due to the UK’s tough visa rules, he has seen up to £1.2bn a year in lost sales from Chinese tourists alone, due to the time consuming process of obtaining a visa, including travelling to a biometric testing centre, and ending with the dispiriting experience of queuing at Heathrow to claim back VAT on goods bought in the UK.
Michael Ward stated:
“We need to make the experience the most pleasurable it can be. We keep saying Britain’s open for business, let’s mean it. We’ve handed a competitive advantage to our European rivals. If we could get slicker we could beat the French and the Italians.”
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