“Excursions (TM)” 2014 Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary At Alexandra Palace:

How many tourists will come to the UK in 2014? According to the current edition of the “Travel GBI” newspaper (published to coincide with the “Excursions 2014” Show at Alexandra Palace in north London on 25th January), the numbers will return to the “record levels” which preceded the 2008 global financial crisis. It refers to “VisitBritain” predictions that 32.6 million overseas visitors will arrive here this year (an increase of 1.8% in volume and 4.2% in spending).

“VisitBritain”, however, has acknowledged that this depends on “uncertainties” such as whether the “Eurozone crisis” is really under control, whether emerging economic powers such as Brazil, China and India “remain stable and continue to see strong growth in disposable incomes” and on how many potential visitors are diverted to the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil. In particular, the proposed “enhancement to the visa process” could result in “ a swift uplift” of overseas tourists (especially from China) choosing Britain.

The Managing Director of Harrods, Michael Ward, recently criticised the situation whereby the Chinese can travel to 26 EU countries with a “Schengen Visa” but if they want to come to the UK, have to “fill out a separate form, have their finger-prints taken and pay a much higher fee”. Likewise, Kit Malthouse, the new Chairman of the promotional body “London & Partners”, has described as “sclerotic” the UK visa system which “has resulted in Chinese tourists spending eight times more in Paris than London”. World Tourism Organisation (WTO) statistics (quoted in “The Guardian”) have indicated that the Chinese will be making “100 million overseas trips” by the end of the decade.

None of this dampened the optimistic mood at “Excursions 2014”. The attendance figures were up by 25% on 2013 and 260 exhibitors (35 more than last time) had booked stands – such as “Shakespeare’s Globe”, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the British Museum and the “Wembley Stadium Tour” organisers, as well as a wide range of cruise operators, theatre booking agencies, accommodation and transport providers. A cake was ceremoniously cut in the Media Centre to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Show at Alexandra Palace.

On a more serious note, an ETOA (European Tour Operators Association) press release issued on January 8th warned that a European Court of Justice ruling of September 26th 2013 could have a “devastating impact” on the UK tourism industry. If implemented, it will impose VAT (Value Added Tax) on a tour operator’s gross margin (which a competitor based outside the EU doesn’t have to pay). Most companies consulted by ETOA responded that this would damage their ability to sell the UK as a destination and could cause the loss of thousands of jobs.








Filed under: Travel | Posted on January 28th, 2014 by Colin D Gordon

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