- Tom Athron is chief executive of the luxury London food store
- Athron says Government must act to prevent losing sales revenues to French
- Paris a ‘very attractive proposition’ for visitors next year, as it hosts Olympics
The boss of Fortnum & Mason this weekend gave a stark warning to the Government to scrap the tourist tax in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement before it is ‘too late’ to prevent losing sales revenues to the French.
Tom Athron, chief executive of the luxury London food store, said: ‘Paris will be a very attractive proposition for visitors next year, as it hosts the Olympics.
‘My view is that waiting until the Budget in the spring to tackle the tourist tax would be too late because people are already thinking about their travel plans for next year.
‘My plea to the Government is to act now. We need to make sure Britain is as attractive as possible to visitors from overseas as it possibly can be.’ Athron is one of an army of retail chiefs backing the Mail’s campaign to scrap the tourist tax.
Experts at the Centre for Economic and Business Research believe allowing overseas visitors to shop free of VAT could boost the economy by £10billion. But Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who is strapped for cash, has so far spurned the rising clamour to abolish the levy.
Worried: Fortnum & Mason boss Tom Athron wants the Government to scrap the tourist tax in the Autumn Statement
Many of the country’s best-known brands have backed the campaign, including Marks & Spencer, Harrods, Burberry, Heathrow Airport and Jimmy Choo.
Athron said the weak pound, which makes shopping cheaper for foreign visitors, is ‘masking the effect’ of the tourist tax. He added that this could soon change if sterling gains ground on the currency markets and urged the Government to move before more harm is done.
‘It is much easier to prevent a problem materialising than trying to react when it hits you.’
‘Increasingly [people] are jumping on the Eurostar to Paris to do their shopping. If you are a luxury purchaser spending a large amount of money there is a significant saving. For us, it is an indirect effect. No-one decides not to shop at Fortnum as they won’t get the VAT back, but there is a mindset around shopping in London which is not as good value as it used to be.’
The Treasury scrapped tax-free shopping for overseas tourists in 2021. It has argued bringing back the concession would result in £2billion of lost tax revenue but campaigners insist this would be compensated by increased visitor numbers and sales.