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The Caterer

Tourism's plea to Mr Brown

04 July 2007
Tourism's plea to Mr Brown

As we bid adieu to Mr Blair, I find myself thinking of our country, and in particular our industry, and what I see confounds me. Virtually every area of government activity has some effect, either directly or indirectly on the ability of new and existing businesses to grow, prosper and contribute to our wider economic success.

Since 1997, business has had to absorb an unprecedented level of regulation - 180 pieces on employment alone. The economic impact of this is such that enterprise is no longer able to absorb the cost of compliance. This, coupled with ever-increasing business taxation, means cost now has to be passed on to the consumer.

The UK's global tourism market share has declined 16% over the last 20 years: we languish in sixth place in the world's most visited countries, behind France, Spain, America, China and Italy. Nearly every government around the world acknowledges the economic benefits of building a sustainable and successful tourism product. We're competing with nearly every other nation for a slice of visitor spend.

We've experienced an exceptional series of high-impact events: 9/11, foot-and-mouth, Sars, the Gulf War and the London bombings. We hardly had time to recover from one episode before we were hit by the next.

The UK is also at a competitive disadvantage compared with some fellow European member states, where sections of their hospitality industry attract much lower levels of VAT.

We need long-term investment in order to allow us to deliver a well packaged, co-ordinated, environmentally friendly approach up to and beyond the 2012 Olympics. Funding to market the UK overseas has stood at the same level since 1997.

It's important to remember that more than two million jobs are either directly or indirectly sustained by tourism activity and that in 2006 overseas visitors contributed £15.4b to the economy.

Mr Brown, we need a coherent business-friendly strategy, investment, open communication, motivation and vision in order to maximise economic growth and wealth-creation for the industry and country as a whole.

Gordon Brown must ensure long-term investment to allow us to deliver a well packaged, co-ordinated, environmentally friendly approach up to and beyond the 2012 Olympics

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