Media House International to lead fresh call to cut VAT on tourism

The Government is to face renewed pressure to cut VAT for the tourism industry after the revival of a 20-year-old campaign.

VAT burden: Butlins’ Ocean Hotel is part of Bourne Leisure
VAT burden: Butlins’ Ocean Hotel is part of Bourne Leisure

Campaign group Cut Tourism VAT has enlisted Media House International (MHI) to lobby politicians about the issue and raise public awareness of the effect that the UK’s 20 per cent VAT rate has on the price of UK holidays compared with tourism in European countries, where rates around 7 per cent to 10 per cent apply.

Last month tourism minister Hugh Robertson told the media the Government was skeptical about whether a VAT reduction would be passed on to tourists and he himself was not convinced it would attract visitors to the UK.

MHI chairman Jack Irvine said: ‘The Scottish Government has already said that a level playing field is required in tourism VAT and I will be intrigued to see how UKIP and Labour view the situation.’

The agency has been engaged for the next 12 months thanks to vital funding from the UK’s leading leisure business, Bourne Leisure, said campaign chairman Graham Wason.

He was involved in the then British Tourism Authority’s unsuccessful attempt in 1993 to persuade the Government to cut VAT for tourism.

The campaign was revived with a 2011 study that used the Government’s own analytical tools and concluded that a VAT cut to five per cent would boost GDP by £4bn a year.

It was promoted by Portland as part of its brief for the British Hospitality Association, until its 12-month contract expired in December 2012.

The same month the group recruited a campaign manager, Vernon Hunte, who headed Keith Vaz MP’s parliamentary office when Labour was in power.

Hill + Knowlton Strategies and Interel have also helped the campaign through their respective clients InterContinental Hotels Group and the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions.The former contributed a public awareness campaign strategy.

The Cut Tourism VAT team also includes Tabitha Aldrich-Smith, who acts for the British Hospitality Association. MHI, which has worked for Bourne Leisure for 17 years, was appointed without a pitch late last month.

‘We feel we’ve won the economic argument: now it’s time for the political argument,’ said Wason. ‘If it’s ever going to happen, it is now.’

MHI recently helped bring about a climbdown on plans to introduce VAT in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The UK government had proposed to introduce the tax, at a rate of 11 per cent.

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