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Tourism deficit is a nonsense | opinion by Andy Cooper

Andy Cooper, director-general, Federation of Tour OperatorsIf you talk to most politicians in the UK, and tell them you are involved in the tourism sector, the first question they will ask is “What are you going to do about the tourism deficit?”


So, what is the tourism deficit?


In simple terms, it is the difference between what British citizens spend on tourism overseas, compared with what visitors to the UK spend on tourism in this country.


In 1997, the deficit was £4.8 billion and this had risen to £18.4 billion by 2006. Politicians get very concerned by this number, and say something must be done to reduce the deficit.


In my view this is a meaningless figure, and an utterly pointless comparison. We live in a cold, wet island with no guarantee of good weather, and it is not unreasonable to expect our citizens to travel to experience culture, enjoy sunshine and, as another example, use ski slopes.


It is, however, entirely unreasonable to blame the outbound industry for creating this ‘deficit’, which can equally be reduced by more tourists visiting the UK.


Inbound tourism may be important for our economy, but is not a substitute for outbound tourism. The danger with this approach is that it results in politicians somehow believing outbound tourism is bad for the British economy, and should be discouraged.


In reality, the outbound sector provides 50,000 jobs, as well as well over £1 billion in tax revenue to the UK government. It is also is a vibrant powerhouse that should be encouraged and supported by politicians, not treated as lepers like we currently are.


So, politicians, stop focusing on something that is completely meaningless outside Westminster.

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