By Daniel Hunter

New plans announced to boost UK tourism are unlikely to have the desired effect unless much more fundamental reforms are implemented, says the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

Jeremy Hunt, the UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has announced an £8m extension of the "GREAT" marketing campaign, and a further £2 million to promote domestic tourism. But, according to David Scowsill, President & CEO, WTTC, there are other options too.

“Jeremy Hunt should be congratulated for recognising the huge economic and social potential of Travel & Tourism in the UK," he said.

"His plans to invest in a new domestic marketing campaign to draw on the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics and to specifically target the high-spending Chinese market are sensible options. Figures from VisitBritain show that the average spend per visit of Chinese visitors to UK is £1677, compared to the average spend per visit from all countries of £563.

"But, the UK is beckoning tourists with one hand and pushing them away with the other. The UK has the highest air tax of any country in the world. Heathrow and Gatwick are effectively full and there is no discernible long-term aviation policy that will provide the routes to China on the scale being provided by other European countries. UK’s visa policy which requires visitors from key growth markets, such as China and India, to go through an expensive, time-consuming and cumbersome process to obtain visas is also a clear deterrent.

"Jeremy Hunt is right to want to “turbo-charge” UK tourism, but a much more fundamental reform of visa, taxation and aviation policy is required to make a real difference.”

According to WTTC figures, the Travel & Tourism industry is expected to directly contribute £35.6 billion and almost 950,000 jobs to the British economy during 2012. When the wider economic impacts of the industry are taken into account, Travel & Tourism is forecast to contribute over £100 billion to the UK economy and generate 2.3 million jobs — or 1 in 13 of all jobs in the UK.

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