The Sun newspaper has today launched a major new campaign calling for a reduction in VAT on hotel accommodation and tourist attractions to 5%, after it got behind the industry's efforts to reduce the tax.
The campaign, called Give Us A Break, mirrors the industry's own Cut Tourism VAT campaign, led by the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and its members.
The paper and the campaign's supporters argue that a reduction in VAT to 5%, as opposed to the current rate of 20%, would allow hard-pressed tourists to find better deals, as well as offering support to Britain's hard-pressed regions.
The Cut Tourism VAT campaign's thousands of supporters range from industry bodies such as the BHA and the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions (BALPPA), to small B&Bs, family run attractions, zoos and major international brands.
The campaign claims that for every additional jumbo jet that arrives in the UK from China, £1m is added to the UK economy, £200,000 goes to the Exchequer and 20 full-time jobs are created.
The tourism sector currently runs a £17b deficit because five British people go abroad on holiday for every two foreign visitors who come in - a situation that is expected to worsen as the pound gets stronger.
While the UK government charges all holidaymakers with 20% VAT, countries like Portugal, Holland and Belgium levy just 6% tax on all hotels, holiday camps and tourist attractions.
France and Spain charge 10% tax on staying in hotels and holiday parks, while VAT in Germans hotels is just 7%.
Thomas Dubaere, managing director of hotel group Accor UK & Ireland, added: "While the UK is a highly desirable destination for tourists, the current rate of VAT, which is double the European average, discourages a large number of potential visitors and prevents the industry from achieving its true potential. A cut in the rate of VAT for tourists would bring significant benefits for thousands of hospitality related businesses across the entire country, create much needed jobs and be a major boost for the wider British economy."
Paul Maynard, MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Con), said: "I have been a big supporter of this campaign and have made my points very clear to successive ministers. I believe by cutting VAT we will increase levels of incoming tourism, making the United Kingdom much more attractive to visit. Incoming tourism is new money into the economy of this county and should be encouraged where possible."