Merlin Entertainments chief executive Nick Varney has again criticised the British government’s policies on tourism.
In a striking interview with the Daily Mail’s financial section, the 51-year-old said that the coalition’s approach did his “head in”.
Varney has been at the centre of campaigns to cut VAT on tourist attractions from 20% to 5% for many years, and has also called for making visa’s easier to obtain for foreign tourists, particularly the Chinese.
“Doing a few fancy posters saying ‘Heritage is Great’ and putting them up at Shanghai Airport is not going to turn around 30 years of constant decline,” he said.
“If all UK holidays became 10 or 15 per cent cheaper, economics tells you what’s going to happen.
“It frankly does my head in that a government that came in purporting to be interested in tourism currently has two policies, on [hard to obtain] visas and VAT, that run counter to its objectives.’
“It’s a third-rate department. Tourism doesn’t even have a dedicated minister any more.
“The last tourism minister said to me ‘we’re doing well, lots of people are coming to London because the pound is weak.’
“I said ‘what sort of tourism strategy is it that relies on the government to fuck the currency up? That’s no strategy at all.’”
Varney highlighted that London’s Emirates Air Line – the cable car system running over the River Thames since 2012 – has a 5% rate of VAT, as did a ski lift in the consituency of the Liberal Democrat MP Danny Alexander.
He said of those two anomalies: “The reason is that if there isn’t a political expedient you don’t win the argument.”