Published on Friday, November 30, 2012

Visa reform set to boost inbound tourism?

Minister for sports and tourism Hugh Robertson made a strong hint last night that the government was about to ease the visa application process to boost tourism to the UK.

Speaking at the VisitBritain annual review, Roberston, whose role as sports minister was expanded to include tourism less than three months ago, said he hoped to have news about visa reform "in the very near future".

Robertson was an outspoken critic of the visa system when his party were in opposition, complaining to the then Foreign Secretary that British embassies overseas were taking too long to process work visas.

At the time, the MP for Faversham and Mid Kent was concerned that delays were causing a shortage of immigrant farm workers on which his constituents depended, but he is equally aware of how the lengthy visa application process can damage inbound tourism.

However, Robertson also warned delegates from the tourism industry that they could be damaging the image of the UK overseas with their high profile campaign against air passenger duty.

"When the tourism industry criticises APD, it is a message that goes abroad," he said. "We must put our best face in our shop window."

He attempted to reassure delegates that the government values the tourism industry, despite Prime Minister David Cameron's decision not to appoint another dedicated tourism minister following the resignation of John Penrose after the Olympic Games.

"There is not anyone in the Government who does not take this seriously," he said.

VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues said latest statistics show tourism accounted for a third of all new jobs created in the past two years. It is also a crucial source of employment for young people, with 44% of those working in tourism under the age of 30, he said.

Last year, Britain was the seventh most popular destination in the world for visitors, he said, but the country's popularity is waning. "The US is trying to attract 100 million visitors a year by 2021; we have to meet this challenge head on," he said.

VisitBritain is targeting a 9 million increase in tourists to a total of 40 million a year by the end of the decade which, if it is successful, will create an additional 200,000 jobs, added Rodrigues.

VisitBritain's overseas marketing campaign on the back of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee generated £503m worth of bookings this year, according to an independent review, he said.

Spending in the 12 months to September reached a record £18.7 billion, a year-on-year growth of 5%.

By Linsey McNeill

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  • Ministerial criticism of APD campaign

    The minister makes refrence to 'best face in our shop window' - he should heed his own words. It's the extrortionate levels of APD that make total air travel costs to the UK so uncompetitive which is the turn off for families and other visitors. In the same way that visa issues abroad have had to be listened to, so must APD - that lies entirely with government so don't blame the industry for sticking up for itself.

    By mike carrivick, Monday, December 10, 2012

  • APD Tax, and Tax Again

    There's no doubt that in this internet age, whether the travel industry gripes about the level of APD or not, the rest of the world will know, because fares charged here are now more transparent around the world. It doesn't take a particularly smart person to see how much of the amount paid goes to tax. I remember reading about this in a US national paper just recently. They put it in such a way that, it felt like robbery to fly from the UK. Does the minister care enough about tourism to examine the case against APD? It ought to be apparent to anyone with an eye for detail that tax in some instances is more than 50% of the fare! Clearly, that is not sustainable, unless you are a well paid minister in this government, in which case prices to do not matter. The evidence from tourism's contribution to the economy in the recent past would suggest, this matter is crucial, as we see most industry closing down. Is pointing this out to this government such a big deal? Why cannot this minister see things from the correct perspective instead of finding fault with the industry? Perhaps, expecting the government to see the obvious is asking too much. His statement sounds like something from some government spokesman in a third world country way South of here. They would envy his call to 'not criticizing the government', only there you would pay with your life for daring to.

    By Richard Mandunya, Friday, November 30, 2012

  • So don't criticise anything......

    So now we are not allowed to criticise anything to do with Government and Tourism policy in case our overseas customers get to hear of it and decide that they don't want to come here?? We must all smile and bear the ridiculous level of tax on air travel, and hope that lots of nice foreign people come here and pay the tax! Get real Mr Robertson!!

    By Jon Rankin, Friday, November 30, 2012

  • It is a shame...

    ...that the minister responsible for inbound tourism should make such ill-informed remarks about APD. This tax - like all taxes, increases prices for residents and tourists alike. As we who have been in the industry for some time (over half a century in my case) know very well just how attractive to tourists is good value. The massive growth in tourism to Spain in the 1960s was due to its amazing value for money - not its beaches and sunshine, attractions that are possessed by many other countries. Britain has many wonderful attractions for tourists - but so do other countries. Britain is not the only country with historic buildings and traditions - and there is a lot of world around for tourists to visit. Complacency about the prices that tourists are willing to pay has been the downfall of many destinations that took their incoming tourists for granted. Britain is now the seventh most popular destination in the world - that is a lower ranking than was the case a few years ago and Britain will not regain its position unless it addresses the problem of high prices - created very largely by taxes. Just to cite one example - one of Britain's unique attractions is its pubs. No other country has pubs and visitors rave about them. But pubs are presently closing at a net rate of twelve a week and this is largely due to the swinging taxes levied on alcoholic drinks. Britain now has the second-highest rate of alcohol tax in the EU and it is still rising. Over a third of the price of a pint is now tax and people are simply not using pubs as they were. And once our pubs have gone, they've gone for good. And the same story could be told about many other of Britain's special attractions; but sadly ministers seem to live in a cloud-cuckoo land where taxpayers will simply cough up regardless.

    By Richard English, Friday, November 30, 2012

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