Opinion: The tourism sector challenges for government

Opinion: The tourism sector challenges for government

By Mark Tanzer, chief executive of travel association Abta

Abta will host a reception in Parliament later today where we will outline to politicians our call to action for jobs and growth in UK travel and tourism.

When David Cameron was elected in 2010 one of his first public statements recognised the key role travel and tourism had to play in helping the economy to grow.

This was a welcome and refreshing position, in contrast to many previous governments which have either ignored our industry or treated it as simply a convenient source of tax revenue.

While the 2011 Government Tourism Policy paper set out some foundations for a coherent and supportive policy towards tourism, it concentrated too heavily on just two sectors of the tourism mix, domestic and inbound, without properly recognising the crucial role outbound tourism performs in creating employment and wealth and driving growth.

A succession of rather grim economic indicators has shown the country is in desperate need of growth.

We believe the government must now look to refresh and rejuvenate a number of its policies to help our dynamic, job-creating industry to flourish.

At the same time it should not forget that all three tourism sectors are closely linked, sharing infrastructure, products and a consumer base. 

All three sectors contribute massively to the UK economy, with consumer spending on travel and tourism totalling an estimated £125 billion a year.

The outbound sector, too often seen as driving money out of the country, contributes a substantial £31 billion to the UK, as reported by Centre for Economics and Business Research in May 2012.

Outbound travel also provides £6 billion a year in taxes to the Treasury and supports 1.26 million jobs in the wider economy, making it a major player in wealth and job creation for UK Plc. 

We have identified four key areas where government support and action is required:

  • Strategic infrastructure support - ensuring communities have excellent transport connections to airports and sea ports, enabling travel to, from and around the UK.
  • Creating a more-competitive product - the government must help where it can to ensure UK travel and tourism is as cost-competitive as possible. It should consider commissioning a review on the impact of Air Passenger Duty, reducing VAT on tourism services and simplifying the visa process for entry to the UK.
  • Good regulation for confident customers and businesses - policymakers must ensure all regulation is proportionate and targeted. The government should bring airline holiday sales within the Atol scheme, remove the requirement for travel insurance sales to be regulated by the Financial Services Authority and cap passport-fee increases.
  • Promotion of travel and tourism as a key employer - the government should encourage cooperation between industry and the educational sector to create the level and type of skills needed for the future development of a healthy and thriving tourism industry, with support for apprenticeships and training in management and entrepreneurial development. The government should also commit to a well-resourced and long-term marketing strategy to promote the UK to a global audience.

All of these policies are deliverable and would provide immense benefits to the UK economy at a time when positive action and results are desperately needed.

We challenge the government to take our recommendations on board and help the industry make its contribution to creating employment, driving wealth and building a sustainable economic future for the UK.


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