The government has been urged by a group of MPs to change its view of hospitality and tourism to reflect the importance of the UK’s fourth largest industry, following a study of Britain’s coastal communities.
The recommendation is one of 37 that have been made in a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Visitor Economy, which has also called for a reduction on VAT on visitor accommodation and attractions to 5%, the avoidance of any tourist tax on hotels, and a commitment to replace European Union (EU) investment funds worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
Reducing tourism VAT was said to be “an essential step forward” in order to encourage Brits to holiday at home and lengthen the holiday season. Just over a third of all trips to the coast currently take place in July and August. At 20%, tourism VAT in the UK is double the average rate in the EU.
The report, which includes plans to prevent aggressive seagull attacks, said that government bodies and tourism promotion authorities should challenge perceptions of the coast as old-fashioned, closed in winter and difficult to get to. It also said that the British coastline was suffering from “chronic housing failure”, compounded by second home ownership which has pushed up house prices.
Successful coastal strategies were highlighted such as the public/private partnership between Blackpool Council and Merlin Entertainments who have revived the Blackpool Tower area as part of eight attractions.
Meanwhile, Government funding for coastal areas – the £170m Coastal Communities Fund – was criticised for focusing on the short-term and small individual projects. Longer-term funding applications and the creation of Coastal Enterprise Zones were recommended, particularly as many coastal areas may soon lose their ESIF funding as a result of Brexit.
European funding is only guaranteed until 2020, and will have been worth £590m to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly since 2014, and £8.4bn to the whole UK.
Cornwall MP and chairman of the APPG for the Visitor Economy Steve Double (Conservative), said: “The British coastline is a national asset with great potential and with the right investment, can drive regeneration, economic growth and job creation. As an MP that represents a coastal community in Cornwall I urge the government to give serious consideration to the recommendations in this report. Together we can turn the tide and bring a smile back to all parts of the British coast.”
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association and chief executive of the secretariat to the APPG, described hospitality and tourism as “a key industry” along the UK’s 6000km of coastline, which is “home to some of our best loved resorts and attractions and equally some of our most deprived towns”.
She added: “Hospitality and tourism is a key industry in these areas, contributing £17b to our national economy. It is essential that government carry out the recommendations in this report to help them flourish by elongating the season, changing perceptions of seaside towns for the next generation of tourists, encouraging private/public partnerships and dealing with the negative repercussions of second home ownership.”
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