The head of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) hit out at the UK government last month, saying: “The UK is not a good example of managing the sector.”
WTTC president and chief executive David Scowsill (pictured) spoke out as the Council forecast UK travel and tourism would grow by 4% this year, outpacing the 2.9% growth forecast in the country's economy.
The WTTC’s annual economic impact assessment, published in March, estimated travel and tourism contributed £188 billion to UK GDP in 2014, making Britain the world's fifth-largest travel and tourism economy.
But Scowsill warned Britain could lose its world ranking without action from Westminster.
With the country facing an election on May 7, Scowsil urged the next government “to take three major steps”.
He said: “First, make visa applications easier, particularly for high-spending Chinese travellers. Second, Air Passenger Duty (APD) must be reformed. Third, a decision must be taken quickly on addressing the chronic undersupply of airport capacity in the South East.”
The WTTC Global Summit which opens in Madrid this afternoon will bring industry chiefs and tourism ministers together from around the world. But Scowsill said: “I don’t think we’ve ever had a serving UK minister at the Summit.
"The UK really does not engage at an international level in our industry. Typically, the UK [government] is not represented at all.”
He added: “Other governments have full cabinet meetings to discuss travel and tourism. In the UK, the Treasury manages tax, the Home Office manages visas, the transport department makes decisions on airport capacity.
Successive UK government have not had a joined-up approach.”
Scowsill also criticised the UK's “over-reaction” to security concerns at border control and a failure to invest sufficiently in automated passport machines at airports.
He described the level of automation at UK airports as “totally inadequate” and said: “You need much more investment. Queuing seems to be a requisite for going in or out of the UK.”
Scowsill added: “People are talking about more security, but the more automated the process the better. The US really understands the visa issue and has completely turned it around. It makes the UK look backward by comparison.”
The WTTC also warned of a major skills shortage in UK travel and tourism. It suggested the sector could employ “352,000 fewer people and contribute £17 billion less in GDP over the next 10 years” if government and industry fail to implement policies to recruit and manage young people.
Scowsill said: “Growth will not happen by itself. The UK will lose out if the government and private sector don’t take steps to put in training capability.”
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