13th December 2016

Stuart Houston is Director of Finance for RBH , the UK's leading independent hotel management company.

"Two weeks on from the first post-Brexit Autumn Statement, the tourism and hospitality industry has had time to reflect on the changes brought in by Chancellor, Phillip Hammond.

"Although the majority of decisions were expected, the continued refusal of the Chancellor to reduce Tourism VAT to help stimulate growth and competitiveness has many within the sector feeling that this is another missed opportunity by the government to boost tourism for the UK.

"With Brexit and its outcome still not fully known, we are seeing market uncertainty and the weakening of the pound already having a marked impact on the UK tourism and hospitality economy."

Positive outlook

"Here at RBH we remain positive and will look to capitalise on the opportunities that Brexit has provided already, including driving growth through the rise of 'staycations' amongst the British public and that of foreign tourists looking to enjoy the benefits of a weaker pound.

"However to further maximise this opportunity, we feel that the current rate of Tourism VAT must come down. Already one of the highest in the EU, the existing VAT more than gives other nations a competitive advantage over UK hotels.

"A change in the rate could and would help inbound and domestic tourism further and the chancellor has the potential to add �20bn to the UK economy over the next 10 years.

"Such a move would see steady growth across the overall market and provide a corresponding benefit to both RBH properties and other brands throughout the UK.

"The fact that a cross-party group of MPs have been lobbying for a reduction in the current rate now since 2015 shows that there is a real appetite for this move. However, with the Chancellor still not moving to bring this through, many within the industry have been left scratching their heads on what it will take for the government to see this viable and credible opportunity."

Co-ordinated approach

"Alongside a cut in Tourism VAT, a much more co-ordinated approach to the marketing and promotion of the industry by the government is required across both a national and regional level to help stimulate growth. Having local authorities in tune with any national initiatives would certainly maximise its benefits and see a much larger return across the sector.

"The tourism and hospitality industry will continue to hold out for a reduction in Tourism VAT and we hope Chancellor Phillip Hammond will act on our recommendations at next year's Budget."

"Until then, we will continue with our strategy to remain the UK's leading independent hotel management company and maximise any opportunity to compete within the industry both here in the UK and abroad."