UKinbound unveils election manifesto

Inbound travel association UKinbound launched a manifesto at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday, declaring it “a blueprint for growth” with seven key asks of the next government.

Chief executive Joss Croft told Travel Weekly: “A general election is a great opportunity to inform the next government of the massive opportunity in the inbound economy.”

He argued: “Inbound travel will grow 7% in value this year, 4% in real teams, and is forecast to grow 20% by 2027, so we’re calling on the government to back a winner. With a fair wind and a supportive government we could see more.”

Croft noted a World Economic Forum report placed the UK 116th out of 117 countries on price competitiveness and said: “We have APD, high VAT, the loss of tax-free shopping and a lack of visibility of our tourism authorities.”

Yet the sector is forecast to grow 20% “even with these handicaps”, he added.

The manifesto, entitled Driving Export Growth, seeks a reformed and expanded Youth Mobility Scheme, an extended passport‑free travel scheme for under-18s, a reduced-price five-year visitor visa, a new VAT-reclaim scheme, and a more competitive Electronic Travel Authorisation scheme.

The association also wants to see the development of language skills, plus national tourist board budgets restored to pre-inflation levels.

Croft said: “The majority of these measures don’t cost any money.”

He described rejection of an EC Youth Mobility Scheme proposal by both the government and Labour in April as “massively disappointing”, insisting: “It’s not an immigration issue.”

But he suggested: “Maybe a Labour government would look at it differently after the election.”

Croft insisted: “Our policy ideas and reforms provide both immediate and long-term solutions that would significantly enhance inbound tourism. The UK should be more ambitious about the role inbound tourism can play in economic growth.”

He said the proposals fall into three main categories: “Brand Britain and how we’re perceived around the world. Enhancing the welcome – in 2012, the UK ranked 11th in the world for its welcome, we’re now 19th. And support for tax-free shopping.”

Croft added: “It’s very easy to see tax-free shopping as a benefit for the rich, but the real opportunity if we offered this is with Europeans flying into regional airports.”

Photo (from left): Sally-Ann Hart MP; Rebecca Brooks, chair UKinbound; Joss Croft, CEO, UKinbound; and Julia Lopez, Minister of State for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries.

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