As Chairman of AIR and CEO of the New West End Company, Jace Tyrrell knows what makes a world capital tick, and here he argues for a simpler visa process for the millions of overseas visitors to London.
As Christmas shopping kicks into gear across the capital, retailers and leisure operators alike will be hoping for a booming festive season to offset the losses endured over the past 20 months.
However, to have any hope of strong returns this winter, they will have to rely on patronage from the British public, as overseas visitors continue to stay away. While the pandemic lingers on, travel restrictions are not the only reason for this dip in spend from abroad.
Historically, we’ve competed with European cities such as Paris and Milan in enticing holidaymakers to our streets. However, as it stands, I’m sad to say that London is no longer the most appealing destination for those shoppers looking to board a plane and enjoy some well-deserved retail therapy.
The Schengen visa, which applies to our European rivals, grants multiple entry to its holders over a six-month period and can be obtained with relative ease and efficiency. The UK equivalent only allows one visit in the same six-month period, and is only granted at least 48 hours before departure, removing the possibility of a last-minute trip for any would-be shopper trying to accommodate a busy schedule.
Given that these European cities already have a 20 per cent price advantage over the UK, following the abolition of tax-free shopping earlier this year, surely we can agree that we should be doing everything in our power to level the playing field?
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