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UK needs to open its doors wider to capture Travel & Tourism’s economic potential A call on the UK to freeze APD and align with the Schengen visa process now

March 19, 2014 Corporate No Comments Email Email

The UK is squeezing the economic opportunity presented by Travel & Tourism and needs to continue to significantly change its approach and policies; including freezing APD and aligning its procedures with the Schengen visa area to simplify access to the UK for travellers.

That is according to David Scowsill, the President and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), as he unveils the organisation’s 2014 Economic Impact Report for the UK today.

uhotelsresortsWTTC’s latest research shows that the Travel & Tourism sector directly contributed 3.5% to the UK economy last year and makes up 10.5% of the economy when its wider supply chain benefits are included. However, it is predicted – at a time when overall they UK economy and world Travel & Tourism continues to grow – that the direct contribution to GDP from Travel & Tourism will slow in 2014 to 2.5% after having grown by 3.4% in 2013.

Mr Scowsill says the UK Government’s policies are inhibiting its competitive position; “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 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.  Mr 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 applaud the “super-priority” visa service as it will certainly help to increase the number of important business travellers, who may need to travel at short notice, but I encourage the success of the pilot be used as a first big step in aligning as much as possible 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.

On another note, VisitBritain is 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. Mr Scowsill notes: “I congratulate VisitBritain on this excellent initiative and its continued efforts to market the UK overseas.  The UK has an outstanding opportunity to make the most of its competitive position – generating jobs and economic growth – as long as top leadership in the UK government join together to support this major investment with actions behind their recent rhetoric from meetings with Chinese officials.  Both visa facilitation and expansion of capacity will need to be met to realise the full potential of this targeted Visit Britain campaign”.

The WTTC research also highlights the size of Travel & Tourism around the world:

  • In 2013, Travel & Tourism contributed US$7 trillion to the global economy and is expected to grow by 4.2% in 2014. The total global contribution of Travel & Tourism to employment, including jobs indirectly supported by the industry, was  266 million jobs (8.9% of total employment) – one in 11 of all jobs on the planet
  • In 2014, the industry globally is expected to grow by 4.3% 

David Scowsill, President & CEO of WTTC, says 2013 proved another successful year for the Industry; “Travel & Tourism’s contribution to the world economy grew for the fourth consecutive year in 2013, helped especially by strong demand from international travellers. Visitor exports, the measure of money spent by these international tourists, rose by 3.9% at a global level year on year, to US$1.3 trillion, and by over 10% within South East Asia.  It is clear that the growth in Travel & Tourism demand from emerging markets continues with pace, as the burgeoning middle-classes, especially from Asia and Latin America, are willing and more able than ever to travel both within and beyond their borders”.

However, Mr Scowsill reminds Governments that they need to take action; “Travel & Tourism forecasts over the next ten years also look extremely favourable, with predicted growth rates of over 4% 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. If the right steps are taken, Travel & Tourism can be a true force for good”.

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