The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee has published a new report warning that recent government decisions are hindering UK tourism’s post-pandemic recovery.
Earlier this month Chancellor Jeremy Hunt scrapped plans for the return of tax-free shopping for overseas visitors, just weeks after the scheme was announced in the doomed “mini budget”.
The government stated that “not proceeding with this scheme is worth around £2 billion a year”, but the DCMS Committee called the decision “short-sighted and incredibly damaging” and “a spectacular own goal”, adding that it was “illustrative of the lack of thought given to the industry by the Government”.
The Committee said that better analysis of the indirect benefits of the scheme would have shown that its costs “would be far outweighed by the revenue it would generate and increased visitor numbers”.
The report also warned that the UK’s inbound tourist sector is “too reliant on London” adding that there was a “worrying” lack of money for marketing.
The Committee said that “many visitors are unaware of attractions outside of London or believe that other destinations are too far or too difficult to travel to”, and called on Visit Britain to continue its work with the industry to showcase all regions of the UK, focusing on addressing perceived and actual travel barriers.
Commenting on the report the chair of the DCMS Committee Julian Knight MP, said:
“The scrapping of tax-free shopping for overseas visitors has been a spectacular own goal from the Government, with the subsequent on-again off-again flip-flopping symptomatic of an approach that lacks thought and recognition of the huge importance of retail to inbound tourism.
“Taking such decisions without the full facts is no way to make policy and has already harmed the industry on which so much of our economy depends. In an increasingly competitive global market, Britain cannot just rely on its reputation alone to attract visitors. It must make it easier for people to travel and access the full range of outstanding attractions all over the country.
“But right across the board – from abolishing tax-free shopping and banning the use of ID cards for young visitors to its complacency on marketing budgets- the Government have hindered rather than helped tourism recover from the pandemic. Ministers must now wake up to the voice of the industry and finally recognise its value.”
The report can be read in full here.