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Indian inbound visitor figures aren’t quite the real deal

KURT JANSON is policy director of the Tourism Alliance

Leaders back ‘cut VAT’ campaign

Tourism industry leaders, backed by MPs from all parties, have launched a concerted cam- paign for VAT on hotel accommodation and tourist attractions to be cut to five per cent. Hundreds of companies – as well as Britain’s


ast month, figures were widely pub- lished showing that India was the most important BRIC country for the UK tourism industry. Te fig-

ures show that there were a record 375,000 visits to Britain from India last year, up 11 per cent on 2012. Tese visitors spent a total of £441m in the UK economy - sufficient to provide around 8,000 full time jobs. Tis is good news, but not quite as good

as you would be lead to believe. Te £441m spent by visitors from India

in the UK economy means that India ranks 17th in source markets for inbound tour- ism. Tis is one position below Denmark and just above Kuwait, meaning that India accounts for just two per cent of total UK inbound tourism expenditure. And while it is true that India is the most important source market for tourists to the UK from the four BRIC countries, this is nothing new. India has always been the BRIC coun- try from which the UK receives the most tourists as a result of it being the only BRIC country that was part of the British Empire – so there has actually been no real change. In reality, there are significant problems

with inbound tourism from India. For exam- ple, while outbound tourism from India has increased by over 60 per cent in the last five years, the number of Indian visitors to the UK has increased by just 7 per cent. Tere are now just 26,000 more people coming to the UK from India that in 2008. Tis compares unfavourably with other BRIC markets, such as Brazil, where the number of visitors to the UK has increased by 43 per cent since 2008, or China, where visitor numbers have increased by 81 per cent since 2008. Even more worrying is that the UK’s

share of the Indian outbound market last year was just 2.2 per cent - which means that the UK’s share of Indian tourists has halved in just seven years. Most of the rea- son for this decline can be traced back to the government’s heavy handed approach to immigration and travel from India. Indians who once thought that their country had a special relationship with the UK, now feel the country is unwelcoming and are voting with their feet by holidaying elsewhere.


best-selling daily newspaper Te Sun – are call- ing on chancellor George Osborne to make the change, to enable the many regions dependent on tourism to invest in jobs and compete with the cheaper holidays offered abroad. Tourism chiefs say the VAT cut – which

was debated in the Houses of Parliament in February – would make the UK tourism indus- try more competitive internationally – in the face of the strengthening pound pushing peo- ple to head abroad. Britain is now one of only four EU nations to not have cut holiday taxes – and one of them, Lithuania will do so next year. While the UK government insists on

charging all holidaymakers 20 per cent VAT, countries like Portugal, Holland and Belgium levy just 6 per cent tax on all hotels, holiday camps and other tourist attractions. France and Spain charge 10 per cent tax on

staying in hotels and holiday parks, while VAT in German hotels is just 7 per cent. Advocates say the cut would lead to a gain

of up to £5bn for the exchequer over 10 years. Campaign supporters range from industry

bodies such as the BHA and BALPA, to small B&Bs, attractions, zoos and major brands.

Te cut ‘would raise £5bn for the public purse’ in 10 years “We have a fantastic tourism product in this

country, with the most beautiful countryside, beaches, landscapes and premier attractions,” said Nick Varney, Merlin Entertainments CEO. “Tere are also really good accommodation

providers out there, from superb hotels to bril- liant B&Bs. Let’s try and give them a break and do something good for the economy.” Meanwhile, Thomas Dubaere, MD of

Accor UK & Ireland, added: “While the UK is a highly desirable destination for tourists, the current rate of VAT, which is double the European average, discourages a large number of potential visitors and prevents the indus- try from achieving its true potential. A cut in the rate of VAT for tourists would be a major boost for the wider British economy.” Details:

Scotland banking on stellar year of sport

Major international events such as the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles are expected to help Scotland maintain the strong tourism results that have seen the country outperform the rest of the UK in certain areas over the last year. Scotland welcomed 2.4 million visits from

overseas during 2013, reflecting growth of 9.8 per cent, according to the latest figures released by VisitBritain. Tese visits generated spend of £1.68bn in 2013, which extrapolates as a nomi- nal annual increase of 19.9 per cent. Te figures represent 7.4 per cent of all vis-

its to the UK and 8 per cent of all spend, but show stronger growth than London and the UK as a whole. Tourism spend is expected to grow to £5.2bn by 2025 – buoyed by Glasgow and Edinburgh’s positions in the top three cit- ies to visit behind London – and the glut of international sporting events set to take place during 2014 is expected to hasten this further. “Te investment in the events of 2014 such

as Homecoming Scotland, the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup will undoubtedly keep up this momentum throughout this

Read Leisure Opportunities online: Te summer of sport is expected to bring lots to cheer

year and beyond, showcasing Scotland to a global audience,” said VisitScotland chair Mike Cantlay. “Tese (VisitBritain) results are spectacular and a true testimony to the signif- icant investment that has taken place within Scotland’s tourism industry. Securing new direct flight routes has also been invaluable.” Details:

Twitter: @leisureopps © CYBERTREK 2014

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