Tourism Alliance urges VisitBritain funding boost to attract more foreign tourists

The government is being urged to provide extra funding to VisitBritain to help the country better compete with rivals to attract overseas tourists.

The Tourism Alliance calculated that the funding for the UK’s national tourism agency must rise by at least £14 million to £69 million a year, with an additional Covid recovery fund of £15 million, to compete with international peers.

Research by the industry body found the UK allocated an extra £1.6 million per year to help tourism recover from the pandemic, compared with an average of £126 million for competing destinations. 

VisitBritain’s funding before the pandemic was 26% lower than the average for other countries popular with tourists.

The figures showed that just 81p per head of population is spent on marketing the UK overseas as a visitor destination.

That compares with an average of £5.88 per head across nine other competing destinations, according to the umbrella group for more than 75 organisations in the tourism sector.

The industry body’s research looked at VisitBritain’s funding for international marketing and promotional activities compared with the amounts provided for similar functions in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and further afield.

As a result of the low level of investment in international marketing and promotion, the UK receives just £391 per person in revenue from overseas visitors compared to an average of £689, according to the study.

The Tourism Society manifesto for the next government addresses “several shortcomings” in government policy with a 20-point plan.

The organisation has proposed a number of policy measures to help revive the UK’s tourism sector in the report.

A new tax-free shopping regime for international visitors should also be established while cutting the VAT rate for hospitality, events and attractions.

Other suggestions include an extension of passport-free travel schemes available for schoolchildren and tackling disruption on the railways.

The manifesto is to be launched at an English Tourism Week parliamentary reception tomorrow (Tuesday) following the group’s annual tourism insights conference in London.

Tourism Alliance chairman Tom Jenkins said: “Some of these proposals involve investment. Yet many of the crucial points involve no money.

“It costs nothing to improve our burdensome visa process. It costs nothing to allow European schoolchildren to be able to visit the UK with their ID cards. It costs nothing to enable young people to come and work in an industry desperate for their services.

“Tourism is the lifeblood of communities. It is a vital component in the viability of local shops, restaurants and attractions. It sustains city centres as much as rural areas. It can be a platform for export-led prosperity.

“If it is to reach its manifest potential, we need political will.”

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