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UK travel firms furious at government’s tourism review

The UK travel industry is up in arms over yesterday’s release of the government’s new tourism initiative, citing a total lack of consultation on industry concerns. .

Executives in the sector, the UK’s fifth-largest industry, are angrily accusing government ministers of totally ignoring industry concerns and refusing to meet with travel company representatives after the unveiling yesterday by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport of its new tourism strategy.

The government initiative included plans to simplify the country’s tourism immigration visa process as well as a scheme to improve skills across the sector, which accounts for an annual direct spending amount of over £90 billion. Consultation on the controversial move of the May Day bank holiday weekend to October was also announced.

However, CEO of the British Hospitality Association Ufi Ibrahim slated the initiative’s passing mention of the effect on the sector of the recent VAT increase.

She said the high rate of VAT is the most pressing concern in the industry as it has reduced competitiveness across the UK tourism sector.

The government report acknowledged the industry’s call for lower taxes, but countered with a statement it would keep the issue under review. It insists the government’s ‘inherited financial position’ must have first priority.

The Intercontinental Hotel Group, with 264 properties in the UK and 30 more planned, is focusing on the damage caused by high airport taxes. Its European sector CEO complained it’s ‘about improving business, not moving bank holidays’. He added visa prices and problems, sky-high VAT and stratospheric airport taxes are costing ten of thousands of jobs.

Thomas Cook boss Manny Fontenla-Novoa hit out at the plans for ignoring outgoing holidaymakers, accusing the government of overlooking the benefit to the UKL of a flourishing overseas holiday market, not even mentioned in the government initiative.

Mr Fontenla-Novoa is angry that, despite the size of Thomas Cook and its economic contribution, ministers refused to meet with him to discuss strategies.

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