WTTC’s latest research shows that the Travel and Tourism sector directly contributed 3.5 per cent to the UK economy last year and makes up 10.5 per cent of the economy when its wider supply chain benefits are included. However, it is predicted – at a time when the UK economy and world Travel and Tourism continues to grow – that the direct contribution to GDP from Travel and Tourism will slow in 2014 to 2.5 per cent after having grown by 3.4 per cent in 2013.
“The UK is losing out on vital income and potentially thousands of jobs at a time when creating employment opportunities for young people is vital,” explains Scowsill. “A composite of issues are contributing to a quelling of demand: Air Passenger Duty is 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”.
In October 2013, the UK Government announced measures including a “super-priority” 24-hour visa service geared towards the Chinese business traveller and a pilot scheme to allow selected Chinese travel agencies to use the EU’s Schengen visa forms for UK visa applications. VisitBritain is also launching a campaign this month called “China Welcome” with the aim of making Britain the most welcoming destination in Europe for Chinese visitors. The organisation will work with the tourism industry on how to cater to Chinese tourists.
But Scowsill says these policies signal positive moves in the right direction, but the Government still needs to do more to attract high-spending visitors from emerging markets: “I encourage the success of the pilot be used as a first big step in aligning with the use of the Schengen application form for both Chinese travellers and those from other key emerging markets. Even adopting such programmes as France’s fast track could ensure a better competitive position for the UK in securing the global travellers.”
“Travel & Tourism forecasts over the next ten years also look extremely favourable, with predicted growth rates of over four per cent annually that continue to be higher than growth rates in other industries. Capitalising on the opportunities for this Travel & Tourism growth will, of course, require destinations and regional authorities, particularly those in emerging markets, to create favourable business climates for investment in the infrastructure and human resource support necessary to facilitate a successful and sustainable tourism industry. At the national level, governments can also do much to implement more open visa regimes and to employ intelligent rather than punitive taxation policies.”
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