We are working with our wide business membership on recommendations that will keep Britain’s tourism industry thriving. We’re currently focused on five key issues:
Making the case for Tourism’s role in the economy
As the gateway for the majority of tourists exploring the UK, London First has worked with Visit Britain and the Department for Digital Media Culture and Sport to develop a Tourism Sector Deal proposal. The proposal defends and enhances London’s role as a connected, open and welcoming destination for both business and leisure visitors.
We also supported the development and delivery of London & Partners’ Tourism Vision, and are working with our members to turn the vision into reality.
We have produced new, borough-by-borough analysis that shows the positive impact of tourism right across London. International tourists contributed £3bn and supported 70,000 jobs in boroughs outside London’s tourism core in 2017. There is huge potential in this halo zone, and growing tourism here by just 10% would create an extra £268m.
Enabling access for tourists
In recent World Economic Forum rankings, the UK has maintained 5th place in terms of its overall competitiveness as a tourist destination. But we have dropped hugely in the competitiveness of our visa requirements, slipping from 22nd to 108th over the past six years. Competitor destinations are doing better at forging relationships with the new, high value tourism markets, such as China.
As part of the UK China Visitor Alliance, London First has consistently called for an enabling approach to visitor visas from key emerging tourist markets with huge growth potential, including exploring better use of multi-entry visas and visa waivers. The campaign has seen the government adopt all of our major policy recommendations including:
Accepting a Schengen application form to apply for a UK visa (halving the paperwork), and a Visa Application Centre sharing pilot with Belgium.
The introduction of a 2 year visa as standard (replacing the standard 6 month visa), and a commitment to introducing a 10 year visa
Having ensured that the forthcoming Tourism Sector Deal includes commitments to enhance the visa system further, London First and UKCVA continue to work with government to identify further practical moves to increase demand from China and remove barriers to travel.
Improved airport capacity and a review of airport charging
London still lacks direct air connections to 128 of the biggest cities in the world, and their tourist markets. London First led the three-year Let Britain Fly campaign to expand the south-east’s airport capacity, culminating in the government announcing its clear support for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. We now work to ensure that the Airports National Policy Statement delivers a long-term aviation framework enabling new runway capacity at Heathrow and other airports in the South East.
The World Economic Forum’s latest competitiveness rankings place the UK last for airport charges, largely due to air passenger duty. Such high charges for leaving the country are at odds with a goal of attracting more visitors. London First feels strongly that this must be revisited, and in the Tourism Sector Deal called for APD to be reduced to a competitive level with near neighbours, to increase viability of new routes to growth markets.
A modern and welcoming border
In the past, long queues at border control have been the greeting that visitors receive when stepping off the plane. Significant progress has been made at the UK Border Force in recent years, with measures like E-gates speeding up border processes, freeing up resource to provide a friendlier, customer-focused welcome.
But London First believes the immigration authority should be given the necessary resource, including the ability to get more and better data quickly, combined with a flexible operating culture to hit tough queue targets, at the same time as keeping out those who should not be here.
As the government considers measures like Electronic Travel Authority, London First continues to make the case for intelligent use of technology for approving and recording visits, as well as enhancing security. Especially where this allows the UK to improve visitor experience, enable a more competitive visa offer to emerging markets, and the flexibility to respond to visitor demand and major events.
Attracting and retaining talent
London’s hospitality industry is built on talented, hardworking people from all over the EU. According to research in ourFacing Facts report, with PwC around 30% of London’s entire hospitality workforce (250,000) are from the EU. The British Hospitality Association has also estimated that without new migration into the hospitality workforce from outside the UK, the industry faces a shortfall of 60,000 recruits a year. Enabling business to fill that skills gap with both domestic and international talent is a key priority for London First.