Kit Chapman, the owner of the Castle at Taunton, has called on the Government to start taking the hospitality and tourism industry seriously, in a speech at the University of Surrey at the weekend.
Chapman said he wanted to see the Government move responsibility for hospitality and tourism policy, currently under the aegis of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, as part of the portfolio of the trade minister.
"We are not some kind of Tom & Jerry show! We generate £90b of direct business annually for the UK, support over 2.5 million jobs and rank among the top six biggest sectors in our economy," Chapman said.
He also dismissed as "arrant nonsense" and a "huge porkie" the Government's claim that UK tourism was a "priority industry".
"(Chancellor) George Osborne's U-turn on the pasty tax and VAT on holiday caravans betrays the Government's cynical indifference to the value of tourism to UK Plc. They just don't get it. The Westminster/Whitehall machine has not registered our country's huge potential in this globalised and highly competitive business world".
On VAT he added: "We are competing with our European neighbours with one arm tied behind our back. In France VAT on hotels has been reduced to 5.5%. In Italy it is 10% and Spain 8%. Indeed, our industry is now ranked 135th out of 139 countries on price competitiveness."
Chapman wants to see VAT on hotels and restaurants slashed to 5% to boost jobs, investment and growth in the sector.
He had been invited to speak at the University of Surrey's Guildford campus for its inaugural International Alumni Day on Saturday 14 July.
By Neil Gerrard
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