Two days before the start of English Tourism week, Visit England launched a multi-million pound TV campaign to persuade us to have a staycation this year in England rather than go abroad or visit the other countries in the UK.
The same day ABTA, Association of British Travel Agents, wrote to the government bemoaning the “lop-sided” support of domestic tourism and that this promotion was a misuse of government money. ABTA says, “It is critical that he (the chancellor) shows support to all three sectors of the industry – domestic inbound and outbound – as each plays a key role in contributing to the economic health of the nation.”
Not exactly true.
Outbound tourism helps employment in the travel industry but encouraging us to holiday at home will help the home economies since money will be staying at home. According to the Tourism Alliance, in 2011 the sector created 76,000 jobs and 9% of the workforce is in tourism. they say, “With the upcoming Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics Games, we can only see the UK tourism industry going from strength to strength.”‘ That the vast majority of ABTA members concentrate on selling overseas holidays might have something to do with their complaint. Or am I being too cynical? But then, when was the last time ABTA held their last annual conference in the UK?
What ABTA – and the rest of the travel industry as well as us travelers – wants is an end to APD, the tax that raises over £2 billion a year for the government, claiming that the tax makes us uncompetitive and will eventually lose us, incoming visitors. As I’ve written before, the government isn’t going to listen meaningfully to us, the traveler, or the travel industry until it can be proven that we are suffering. Given the Olympics and the Jubilee, the government should be safe this year. It will collect the money from us and make soothing noises but no more. And in 2014 we have the 450th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare and 2015 sees the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta so reducing APD might be a way away. Like the Netherlands and Ireland, only when the government sees a decline in revenue will it move and suddenly have a change of mind.
Until then has ABTA not thought of exhorting its members to sell UK holidays? Or does ABTA really stand for Association of Brits Travelling Abroad?