The May Day bank holiday could be replaced by a new national holiday as part of a new UK tourism strategy. The Government is considering making St George’s Day a bank holiday in England, and the same with St David’s Day in Wales.
Another option that will be conaulted on before a decision is made is a Trafalgar Day in October is an effort to extend the tourist season. But plans to move the clocks forward an hour all year round in Britain were not in the strategy as this is still the suject of a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Commons.
The tourism strategy, which aims to generate an extra four million overseas visitors to the UK over the next four years, was welcomed by VisitBritain. At Thursday’s launch Sandie Dawe Visit Britain chief executive said:
“This is good news from our perspective. Firstly the recognition of tourism at the highest level. Secondly there are so many factors that affect tourism this wraps them all up in one document and creates an agenda that other government departments can hold the government to account on.
“Lastly it is an endoresement of the our work at Visit Britain, our £100 million marketing programme and also, of course our advisory remit.”
But the Federation of Small Businesses says the Government is merely “tinkering” when what the tourist industry really needs is more investment and there was disappointment from some quarter that the strategy did not address tax issues like VAT.
Tom Jenkins, executive director of ETOA, said: “The Prime Minister has previously talked about making the UK tax competitive. That idea must embrace tourism.”
“There should be no VAT on exports which are used abroad. Tourism is an export but the creation of holidays in the EU for visitors from outside the EU is subject to VAT under TOMS. That is different from every other type of export and it’s clearly disadvantageous to our inbound tourism. “
“If the Government is serious about encouraging more people to come here, he needs to go to Brussels and convince the other member states to reform TOMS because there is a massive disincentive on EU-based companies promoting EU-based holidays.”
And Mario Bodini, chief executive of JacTravel, criticised the Government for what he describes as an “intellectually bankrupt” stance on tourism. The tourism strategy contains only modest measures to improve the issuing of visas to leisure visitors but no meaningful action on taxation, particularly Air Passenger Duty.
Bodini said: “The Prime Minister has previously talked about making the UK tax competitive. That idea must embrace tourism so a visit to the UK is tax competitive too.” He also attacked the coalition over TOMS – which he described as clearly disadvantageous to tourism exports.
“Tourism needs a much higher status in government – at the very least a key portfolio in the Department for Business. What we are hearing is mere lip service; what we need is real action.”
In China, tourism is seen as one of five pillars of a master plan for economic growth. In the UK, there is a junior minister in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and a new tourism strategy that is long on rhetoric and light on substance,” he added.
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