Tourism Boost: Government Must Accelerate Plans to Boost Tourism

BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim told an audience at the Hospitality Show in Birmingham this week that the coalition Government should accelerate its plans to help the industry boost its competitiveness.

“Costs are rising all the time, especially food costs, which is putting huge pressure on operators. But this has come just when the increase in VAT was introduced. For the hospitality industry, this is significantly squeezing margins and damaging growth. It’s a double whammy.”

She said that many government actions were counter-active, with policies which were pursued by one department being damaged by decisions taken by other departments.

“Take the question of visas. China and India are among the great tourism source countries for the UK, yet our visa system is so costly and complicated that we are deterring visitors from those countries coming to Britain. We haven’t even got visa forms in Mandarin, so that presumes all visitors must be able to speak English, which is nonsense. This is another double whammy.”

Pointing out that countries like China had put hospitality at the heart of their economic strategy, she urged government to act quickly.

“David Cameron was one of the first prime ministers in decades to recognise the importance of the hospitality industry to job creation and last summer pledged to work with the industry to stop the decline in the UK’s competitiveness globally. He also backed an initiative to encourage more Britons to holiday at home.”

But she said that the government’s tourism strategy had still not been published.

“What is it that we are waiting for? We are seriously slipping as a destination choice. We are getting worse while the competition is getting better. It’s yet another double whammy.

“Unless we do things differently in this country very quickly, there is not going to be enough benefit from the Olympics beyond what’s happening in London.

“Some 4.7bn viewers watched some part of the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing. How are we going to get maximum exposure like that for the UK? The Olympics made Barcelona what it is today.

“There is nothing to say that cannot be achieved here but we have to do something about the opportunity now”.

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