Tuesday 23 October 2018 03:14:49 AM

Ritchie Calls on VAT Reduction to Stimulate Tourism Trade
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SOUTH Down SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie has called for local politicians and the Westminster government to work to stimulate growth in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Ms Ritchie has said that the UK government needs to address the damaging impact of VAT rates and Airport Passenger Duty for the tourist industry to reach its full potential.

She added: “The tourism and hospitality sector are vitally important to our economy in the North of Ireland, nowhere more so than in my own constituency. We must encourage visitors to come here and it is important that when they do they travel throughout the North to see the many sights we have on offer, including the Mournes and St Patrick’s Country in South Down. It is also vital that this work is done on an all island basis to maximise the benefit that growth and increased visitor numbers can have North and South.

“We need to support the industry as it begins to emerge from the impact of the recession. Along with my fellow SDLP MP’s at Westminster, I have championed a reduced VAT rate for the tourism and hospitality sector. This would cut the VAT rate for tourism products such as hotel accommodation and food, and similar measures have already been successful when implemented in Germany, France and Ireland. This would create jobs and stimulate business, helping the industry move forward and encouraging more visitors to come to Northern Ireland every year.”

Ms Ritchie said it was particularly concerning to see the government attempt to implement a VAT charge on static caravans at the last budget. She said: “Given the importance of caravan parks and the trade they bring to local business, I opposed this and brought forward a parliamentary motion challenging the government to reconsider, which they subsequently did. Rather than threaten the sector we need to support it and provide the conditions for growth.

“The UK government must also consider the damage that the high rate of Airport Passenger Duty is doing to our tourism sector, especially when compared to the lower rate in the rest of Ireland.  The higher rate has a clear impact on inward investment and inbound tourism, which is compounded by the lack of alternative means of transport for potential tourists. The government needs to carry out a proper investigation into this and bring forward workable proposals in the next budget.

“Our tourism sector has been hit by the financial crisis and while there has been much positive work done, it needs a concerted effort from the government in Westminster and local politicians if we are to properly capitalise on what should be one of the strongest sectors of our local economy.”