Merlin Entertainments has used George Osborne’s trade tour of China to call for a reduction in the ‘crippling’ rate of VAT on the UK’s leisure industry.
During his visit to Beijing this week, the Chancellor announced the relaxation of visa regulations for Chinese visitors to the UK, a move Merlin Entertainments has lobbied for extensively.
Merlin chief executive, Nick Varney, congratulated the Government on the step, but said it must now also consider the ‘crippling rate of VAT which puts such pressure on the competitiveness of the UK leisure industry’.
Varney added: ‘We are very pleased that the Government is starting to listen to the leisure industry, and acknowledge its huge contribution to the success of the UK economy. These visa changes are long overdue, and crucial if the UK is to capitalise on the rapidly growing number of Chinese middle class now looking to holiday overseas.
‘However if we are to really stimulate tourism and improve the UK’s position in the global market place, we must make our nation more welcoming financially. Mr Osborne and his Government colleagues need urgently to look at what more can be done, for example with the very high rate of VAT. The industry desperately needs lower rates in line with our European and other competitors in what is a very price sensitive sector.’
The UK tourism sector is subject to VAT at 20%, while rivals in France and Germany pay just 7%.
Merlin also announced a new strategic partnership with Beijing’s leading developer, SOHO China, which will result in the company taking a number of its attractions to the Chinese capital; the first of which will be Madame Tussauds Beijing, scheduled to open in 2014.
The sixteenth Madame Tussauds worldwide and the fourth in China after Shanghai, Hong Kong and Wuhan, Madame Tussauds Beijing will be located in the heart of the city close to Tiananmen Square.
Merlin, the world’s second biggest attraction operator behind Disney, now has 99 attractions, eight hotels and three holiday villages in 22 countries, including 11 in Asia.