Ritchie calls for action on VAT

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Tuesday, September 11th, 2012
SDLP MP for South Down Margaret Ritchie has called for local politicians and the Westminster government to work to stimulate growth in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Ms Ritchie insists that the UK government needs to address the damaging impact of VAT rates and Airport Passenger Duty for the industry to reach its full potential. Speaking to Newry Times she said: “The tourism and hospitality sector are vitally important to our economy in the North of Ireland, nowhere more so than in my own constituency. We must encourage visitors to come here and it is important that when they do they travel throughout the North to see the many sights we have on offer, including the Mournes and St Patrick’s Country in South Down. “It is also vital that this work is done on an all island basis to maximize the benefit that growth and increased visitor numbers can have North and South. We need to support the industry as it begins to emerge from the impact of the recession. She continued, “Along with my fellow SDLP MPs at Westminster I have championed a reduced VAT rate for the tourism and hospitality sector. This would cut the VAT rate for tourism products such as hotel accommodation and food, and similar measures have already been successful when implemented in Germany, France and Ireland. “This would create jobs and stimulate business, helping the industry move forward and encouraging more visitors to come to Northern Ireland every year. It was therefore particularly concerning to see the government attempt to implement a VAT charge on static caravans at the last budget.” “Given the importance of caravan parks and the trade they bring to local business I opposed this and brought forward a parliamentary motion challenging the government to reconsider, which they subsequently did. Rather than threaten the sector we need to support it and provide the conditions for growth.” Ritchie added, “The UK government must also consider the damage that the high rate of Airport Passenger Duty is doing to our tourism sector, especially when compared to the lower rate in the rest of Ireland. “Our tourism sector has been hit by the financial crisis and while there has been much positive work done it needs a concerted effort from the government in Westminster and local politicians if we are to properly capitalize on what should be one of the strongest sectors of our local economy.”
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