Tourism industry entrepreneur Simon Scarborough is urging Bournemouth’s business community – and local residents – to throw their weight behind a nationwide campaign to slash VAT rates for hotels and visitor attractions.
Campaigners, led by the London-based British Hospitality Association (BHA), want the tax rate cut from the current 20 per cent to just five per cent – to stimulate tourism and create jobs.
“VAT on the UK’s tourism industry is roughly double the European average,” says Mr Scarborough, founder of the Simon Scarborough Associates consultancy. “That means higher prices, for overseas visitors and for British holidaymakers alike.
“Lessening the tax burden would mean cheaper holidays for all, encouraging more people to travel, and giving the industry a real boost. For a town like Bournemouth, where tourism means so much to the local economy, it could be a real game-changer.”
BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim, who visited Bournemouth earlier this year to encourage local tourism businesses to take on more apprentices, agrees. “Tourism is a great British success story, but we are missing out on tourists because of the high VAT rate,” she says.
The Cut Tourism VAT campaign has already won the backing of more than 60 MPs, but Mr Scarborough wants Bournemouth’s voice to be heard loud and clear. “I’m asking as many people as possible to write to our local MPs to make their feelings known,” he says.
“Lower prices mean more visitors, and more visitors mean more jobs – in an industry that employs a great many young and less-skilled people. And getting more people into work stimulates the local economy, so everyone benefits.”
The National Coastal Tourism Academy, headquartered at Bournemouth University, calculates that every 85 extra visitors to the town create another new job.