South Down tourism-related businesses are watching developments over a move to try an reduce tourism VAT in Northern Ireland.
Margaret Ritchie, South Down MP (SDLP) and chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Visitor Economy, has welcomed a call from the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee to reduce Tourism VAT to 9%.
Ms Ritchie has been campaigning for a reduction in VAT on tourism and hospitality products for a number of years as a way to enhance the local economy.
She said: “It is a testament to the strength of the tourism industry in the North that, despite economic adversity from the recession, it saw sustained growth. With the imminent threat of Brexit, it is vital that the Government supports and nurtures this success through a meaningful incentive such as the reduction in Tourism VAT.
“With our visitor’s economy increasingly competing on a global scale, the extra costs created by our high VAT rate of 20% is encouraging tourists to holiday elsewhere. The issue is particularly acute in Northern Ireland, where we are competing more directly with hotels, restaurants and attractions in the south which are charged only 9% VAT.
“Reducing hospitality VAT would act as an effective catalyst for our economy, supporting local businesses, giving them increased fiscal flexibility and boosting opportunities by generating up to 8,500 new jobs. Cutting VAT for tourism would more than pay for itself by stimulating demand, and this additional money could be spent in improving the transport and broadband infrastructure that tourist areas need to succeed.
“The British Government should listen carefully to the advice of the Select Committee on this issue. The case for the reduction in tourism and hospitality VAT is overwhelming.”