London First is clear that tourism is a value contributor to economic growth and jobs. It is also often the first step on the path to foreign investment and trade with other economies, and as such, we must ensure that visiting the UK is a wholly positive experience.
However, there are a number of existing disincentives that are impeding tourism to the UK.
Benchmarking the effectiveness of London’s promotional system
London risks falling behind in the race for high-value investment and tourism because it lacks the assets and financial firepower of global rivals, according to a new report.
The independent study by Deloitte found that London’s promotional budget compared poorly with the greater amounts available to traditional rivals.
The report, which compares the effectiveness of London’s promotional system with those in Paris, Berlin, Hong Kong, Singapore, Toronto, New York and the FDI promotion system in the Greater Washington Area, recommends:
- The allocation of more funding for London’s international promotion
- Better leverage of assets owned by the city
- Raising more commercial revenue in order to better promote the capital, which, in turn will bring additional benefits to the rest of the UK.
Barriers in the visa application process
In recent World Economic Forum rankings, the UK has improved its position from 7th to 5th in terms of its overall competitiveness as a tourist destination. But we have dropped 24 places in terms of the competitiveness of our visa requirements, slipping from 22nd to 46th.
Competitor destinations are doing better at forging relationships with the new, high value tourism markets, such as China. Paris, for example, attracts between five and eight times as many Chinese visitors as London.
A recent report by the UK Chinese Visa Alliance (of which London First is the primary funder) argued that the vast majority of Chinese visitors to Europe are discouraged by needing to apply for two visas – one for the UK and one for the 26 Schengen countries – and only one Chinese visitor in ten applies for both visas.
While the Government has introduced measures to streamline the UK application process in isolation, London First believes that the biggest improvement would be achieved by working more closely with our European counterparts to encourage more Chinese visitors to include the UK on their European tours.
Welcoming tourists into the UK
In the past, long queues at border control have been the greeting that visitors receive when they step off the plane.
There has been progress made at the UK Border Force, but London First believes the immigration authority should be given the necessary resource, including the ability to get more and better data quickly, combined with a flexible operating culture to hit tough queue targets, at the same time as keeping out those who should not be here.
Airport charges upon leaving the UK
The World Economic Forum’s latest competitiveness rankings place the UK last for airport charges, largely due to air passenger duty. Such high charges for leaving the country are at odds with a goal of attracting more visitors and London First feels strongly that this issue must be revisited.
Contact Matthew Hill for further information
Download and read our publications on Tourism.
- Reports (2 documents)
- Benchmarking London's Promotion - Executive Summary(PDF, 1.11MB, 26 November 2014)
- Benchmarking London's Promotion - Full Report(PDF, 2.73MB, 26 November 2014)