I have been making ongoing representations to the Treasury ministers in London regarding the need to underpin and pump prime our local tourism industry in South Down.
One of the most important aspects would be to reduce VAT on tourism products and also to ensure that Air Passenger Duty remains at zero.
Only last week, I wrote to the Treasury to urge that the Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce such a measure in the forthcoming budget to boost our local economy.
I understand that the government is committed to commission a detailed consultative report on the “impact of VAT and Air Passenger Duty on tourism in Northern Ireland and to recommend how best to build upon the growing success of that sector”.
But why wait for the results of a commission when the evidence of the impact of the reduction in VAT on tourism products is already evident in the South of Ireland where it was reduced some years ago on a pilot basis and then fully implemented in subsequent years and where the level of employment in the hospitality industry has increased significantly.
There is no better example of the success of the tourism industry than in South Down – both in St Patrick’s country and the Mournes; in our lowlands, upland regions and coastal areas where large numbers of people already visit and where they can avail of events and experience the wonderful contrasting landscape.
To boost such a tourism offering, the government must bring forward a reduction in VAT in tourism which is currently at 20%.
I will continue to press the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter to protect our jobs and the economy in the hospitality, pub, restaurant and hotels sector.
Margaret Ritchie, SDLP, South Down