UK travel operators enraged by Government's tourism review

Travel industry executives reacted with anger last night to a government initiative aimed at boosting tourism to the UK, accusing ministers of letting down the country's fifth-biggest industry.

They said the Coalition Government had failed to address travel companies' concerns, while the chief executive of Thomas Cook, one of the country's biggest travel agents, complained that ministers had simply refused to meet him.

The outcry followed the unveiling yesterday of a new tourism strategy by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which included proposals to simplify the UK's tourist visa process and to improve skills across the industry, which accounts for £90bn in direct spending every year.

The Government also said it would consult on whether to move the first May bank holiday.

However, Ufi Ibrahim, the chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said the strategy's "passing acknowledgement of the high rate of VAT" was a disappointment. "VAT has become one of the most pressing issues facing the industry," she said. "The present high rate is making UK tourism very uncompetitive."

The Government's report acknowledges the calls for lower taxes, but says that, while it will keep the matter under review, "the financial position we inherited means we must give priority to our fiscal base".

The BHA's concerns were echoed by InterContinental Hotels, which has 264 properties in the UK. The group, which is aiming to open 30 more hotels in coming years, creating about 3,000 jobs, also pointed to the "damaging" impact of high aviation taxes. "This is about so much more than a September bank holiday," the head of InterContinental's European business, Kirk Kinsell, complained.

"Expensive visas, sky-high VAT and damaging aviation taxes are costing the economy tens of thousands more jobs." The plans published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are aimed at using the upcoming London Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee to bring an extra 4 million tourists to the UK over the next four years, attracting £2bn of spending and helping create jobs against the backdrop of sluggish economic growth.

Manny Fontenla-Novoa, the chief executive of Thomas Cook, the tour operator which directly employs some 15,000 people in the UK, also criticised the plans for overlooking outbound travellers, saying: "The Government consistently fails to see the benefits to the UK economy of a buoyant overseas holiday industry and the lack of it in [the] tourism strategy only reinforces this."

Mr Fontenla-Novoa added that, despite Thomas Cook's size, "the Tourism Minister has refused to even meet with us to discuss his strategy".

A DCMS spokesperson said that while the department was unable to accommodate all meeting requests, the Tourism Minister, John Penrose, had met with ABTA, the tour operators' trade association.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Danny Cipriani of England breaks clear to score his second try
Life and Style
New research says leaving your desk can help you to avoid serious illness
Arts and Entertainment
tvSPOILER ALERT: Like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, this GoT episode was a belter
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Guru Careers: Communications Exec / PR Exec

£25 - £30K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a highly-motivated and ambitious Comm...

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral