Several of our hospitality and luxury clients raised with us the issue of the removal of traditional tax-free shopping for tourists by the Treasury in 2021. We conceived a campaign focusing on the negative economic consequences of the decision, highlighting evidence that the UK had been put at a disadvantage compared to all countries remaining in the EU, which still offer tax rebates for tourists.
While the Treasury had argued that scrapping the tax break saved £2bn a year for the public purse, we wanted to focus on evidence that this was short-sighted as it took no account of the billions tourists traditionally spent in hotels, restaurants, galleries, museums, public transport and so on. We wanted to make the case that reinstating the tax-free shopping scheme would benefit the economy and support key sectors such as hospitality, retail, and travel. It would attract more international visitors, stimulate economic growth, and generate additional revenue for businesses.
- To highlight the economic damage done by the removal of tax-free shopping
- To gather high-profile support from business leaders for a campaign for a U-turn
- To demonstrate that the issue affects the whole economy, not just a few luxury stores in London’s West End
- To gather political support to increase pressure on the Treasury
We branded the change in policy ‘the tourist tax’. Together with leading figures in retail, luxury, travel, tourism, and hospitality, we organised an open letter to the Chancellor calling for the return of tax-free shopping for foreign tourists. It cites new evidence of real damage being done to the economy by the scrapping of the traditional VAT exemption by the Treasury in 2021.
Over several months, we worked to secure an impressive list of 400+ signatories, including British Airways, Marks & Spencer, Harvey Nichols, Burberry, Heathrow, Victoria Beckham, Royal Opera House, British Fashion Council, Fenwick, Charlotte Tilbury, Primark, UKinbound, ALVA, The Really Useful Group, Society of London Theatre, Southbank Centre and Bicester Village to name a few.
Many of the leading hotels in London worked with us, with the Goring, Ritz, Savoy, Nobu Hotel, Bvlgari Hotel, Raffles at the OWO and London Hilton Parkside adding their names, as well as a huge number of regional hotels including Gleneagles, Celtic Collection and lots more.
We have achieved a terrific amount of media coverage in the Times, Reuters, the Telegraph, Bloomberg, FT, Sunday Times, Express, Evening Standard, Times Radio, BBC, LBC and Sky News, including a series of front page stories. Crucially, we secured the support of the Daily Mail and MailOnline who have put their might behind it by formally backing our campaign.