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Tourist tax harmful to the UK, says retail Landlord

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Oxford Circus Credits: New West End Company

In Westminster Hall last week, Members of Parliament convened to discuss tax-free shopping for international visitors. The debate has sparked a wide range of opinions amongst the UK’s retailers, with the majority advocating for aVAT-free shopping scheme to attract foreign visitors and remain competitive against other European destinations.

Hugh Seaborn, Chief Executive of Cadogan, commented on the debate: "The Government seems to be missing an obvious opportunity with VAT-free shopping. We possess the data that clearly demonstrates money that could support jobs, growth, and prosperity in the UK is being spent abroad. While London's historical and cultural attractions are unique, more needs to be done to incentivize international travel and maintain a competitive position compared to European counterparts. Today's debate highlights that tax-free shopping is a national issue affecting various businesses, from luxury retailers in Chelsea to manufacturers in the Midlands, textile workers in the north, and whiskey producers in the Scottish Highlands."

Cadogan is a longstanding family business involved in property management, investment, and development, known for its 300-year history, which guides its contemporary estate management approach. With over 90 acres in Chelsea and Knightsbridge, Cadogan aims to preserve the area's unique character while ensuring its future vitality.

Steven Medway, CEO of the Knightsbridge Partnership, shared his perspective on the MPs' debate regarding Tax-Free Shopping: "We appreciate the Government and MPs addressing the topic of tax-free shopping, but they must also consider the evidence presented by hospitality and retail businesses over the summer. This evidence indicates that the current policy is adversely affecting tourist sentiment and spending. While the minister hinted at a possible review, an undecided stance does not assist Knightsbridge businesses in making the case for further investment or entice tourists to spend their money here."

Knightsbridge BID is one of London's designated international retail centers, attracting 19 million annual visitors, with 15 million drawn by its luxury retail offerings, including jewelry, fine art, cosmetics, fashion, beauty, hotels, spas, and dining. The majority of visitors are domestic, and international visitors significantly contribute to the UK GDP, with Knightsbridge playing a substantial role.

The Knightsbridge Partnership represents 300 businesses operating in Knightsbridge, including prominent names like Harrods, Burberry, Harvey Nichols, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, and Pavilion. The Partnership also advocates for 190,000 residents and numerous employees crucial to the district's enduring appeal.

Tax free shopping