We received the folowing mail today highlighting Varney's reservations.
In response to Mr Cameron’s speech on the tourist industry:
Commenting on David Cameron’s speech on the tourist industry earlier today, Nick Varney, Chief Executive of Europe’s biggest visitor attraction operator Merlin Entertainments said:
‘While broadly welcoming Government’s recognition of the importance of the tourist industry to both the economy and as an employer in the UK, Mr Cameron actually offered little practical help to businesses such as ours in this speech.
“The fact is that the UK and London are no longer the automatic choice of travelers. This country has a great deal of competition from other markets which are receiving real, practical support from their politicians. Leisure operations in other European countries for example enjoy special VAT rates as low as 5 or 6% on attractions and hotel accommodation, compared to our 17.5% and soon to be 20% rate.
“More than that, cutting national tourism marketing budgets now, in the run up to the Olympics, is hardly conducive to increasing visits or spend here. Nor does it give any confidence to the industry that this is any more than rhetoric, or that this Government really understands or cares about our issues.”
The key is, of course, as James Berresford, CEO of Visit England, adriotly pointed out last month at the Operator's Conference in Oxford, not so much whether the Government itself "gets" tourism but whether the Treasury does. Is the Government all talk or, as my grandmother would less adriotly put it, are they "all fur coat and no knickers?"