Britain is in a very competitive marketplace. Although global tourism levels are set to increase at a steady annual rate, the fact remains that some nations will do better than others. How will Britain measure up?
Does our government fully recognise the importance of hospitality and tourism to the national economy?
Has our government encouraged the right mix of public policy to maximise the potential of Britain’s hospitality and tourism sector?
It is important that we note that this has nothing to do with political ideology. It has everything to do with national ambition.
Countries as diverse as China, the UAE, Germany, the USA, Turkey, Singapore and Mexico are working hard to construct the right partnerships and the right mix of public policy to develop their tourism economies. The most successful national strategy is based on the fact that tourism is about a broad visitor economy in which, for example, the delegate to a medical conference, the student on a postgraduate course and the project management team evaluating a development site are afforded the same significance as the family seeking a holiday destination. A more coherent and unified approach to policy is required.
The World Economic Forum published its global Travel and Tourism Competitiveness report for 2013. The good news is that Britain has improved its overall position. However, we have concerns about the effect of our relative uncompetitiveness in the area of price. Out of 139 countries surveyed by the WEF, only one country is less competitive. This is driven principally by the extremely high levels of Air Passenger Duty, VAT and high fuel prices. In such a competitive environment, Britain will only be able to maintain, or improve, its relative standing in the world if these charges are reduced.
We outline the specific policy recommendations on taxation and price competitiveness; visas; infrastructure; enterprise policy and the role of the national Visit agencies. Despite the massive boost from the 2012 Olympics, it is clear that Britain will have to move a lot faster if it is to keep up with the other runners in the race.