The Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons owner and Michelin-starred chef warned that the UK’s 20 per cent VAT was putting it at a competitive disadvantage against its European neighbours.
“In my beloved France the rate of VAT is 10 per cent in hotels and yet here in Great Britain it is 20 per cent. This automatically puts us in Great Britain at a disadvantage as a global player.
“The hospitality industry is the leader in spearheading the reduction in youth unemployment and any action which would create more jobs and put more youngsters into employment would be beneficial to the treasury,” he said.
Le Manoir’s general manager Philip Newman-Hall joined Blanc in the plead for lower VAT, adding: "We are supposed to be one European Union but the differing tax regimes which lead to lower prices will always draw tourism away from the UK - not just incoming tourism that will go elsewhere, but also outgoing tourism that will leave the country rather than take a ‘staycation’. The government should be looking at the long-term issues of employment and parity, not just the short-term issue of tax revenues."
Blanc and Newman-Hall joined a cross-party group of over 60 MPs, as well as hospitality businesses big and small, in an effort to get the government’s attention on the VAT issue.
The movement, which is pushing for 5 per cent VAT in the sector as opposed to the current 20 per cent, recently gained momentum with the launch of The Sun newspaper’s ‘Give Us A Break’ campaign.
Recent research commissioned by the campaign showed that reducing VAT from 20 per cent to 5 per cent would boost GDP by £4bn per year, create 123,000 jobs around the country and provide £4bn to the Treasury over ten years.
But despite various campaign initiatives, including a ‘mobile beach’ action that hit Westminster at the beginning of July, the government has not budged.
Among other supporters to the campaign, Dermot King, managing director at Butlins, believes a VAT reduction would help support economic recovery in the regions: “We need to recognise that tourism isn’t just the country’s biggest employer of young people or the social heart of hundreds of towns, but the economic driver of many British regions.
“This is about investing in the future of those areas - where hotels and attractions are potentially the lifeblood of economic recovery - so that our improving business climate can benefit everyone and not just the South East,” he said.
Nigel Reed of Pendragon Country House in Davidstow, Cornwall, also urged Prime Minister David Cameron to reconsider his position: “It is vitally important that the UK cuts tourism VAT to become in line with, and therefore, competitive with mainland Europe. Current UK tourism VAT is a rip-off for visitors from home and abroad, and there is huge evidence to show that it disadvantages the UK tourism industry and the UK as a whole.”