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UK retailers fall behind in international spend

The government must do more to spur international spend or risk pushing UK retailers further behind European competitors, one expert has claimed.

International spend in the UK dropped for the first time year-on-year in 2014, down 3%, blamed on political unrest and economic decline.

However, figures from Global Blue reveal other nations such as France (+8%) and Italy (0% change) were largely unaffected.

Gordon Clark, head of commercial of UK and Ireland at Global Blue, said the trend should “sound alarm bells” to the government and is calling for changes to safeguard UK tourism against European competitors.

He claims there are a number of barriers that are hindering UK tourism and the economic opportunity these visitors bring.

“Tourism VAT, the visa application process, airport capacity and Tax Free shopping solutions have been on the agenda lacking progress for too long and it is vital the Government takes the necessary steps now before the UK loses out further to European competitors,” he said.

Global Blue has made four key recommendations to the government to stem the decline including cutting the VAT rate for tourists to 5% and extending efforts to simplify visa agreements with China to other Schengen countries, following on from a pilot announced in June.

It is also calling for immediate action on a new airport runway, following on from Sir Howard Davies’ Airport Commission report last week, which suggested a third runway at Heathrow, and making the tax free shopping process digital to reduce queues at airports.

More than 200 business leaders from the UK retail and leisure industry gathered at Global Blue’s annual forum in London yesterday (July 9) to discuss the challenges and make the recommendations.

Speaking at the event, the British Retail Consortium’s director general Michelle Emmerson said: “Retail and tourism are mutually supporting – the health of one has a real and direct impact on the other.

“I’m delighted to be able to offer the retail perspective and to outline why UK retailers need tourism as much as UK tourism needs a vibrant retail industry right across Britain.”


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