Abolish the tourist tax now, argues Fortnum’s boss


  • Tom Athron is CEO of the luxury London food retailer
  • Athron says the government must take action to avoid losing sales revenue to French people
  • Paris will be ‘very attractive’ for visitors next year because it will host the Olympic Games

The boss of Fortnum & Mason strongly warned the government in this weekend’s Autumn Statement to scrap the tourist tax before it is ‘too late’ to avoid losing sales revenue to the French.

Tom Athron, CEO of the luxury food retailer in London, said: ‘Paris will be a very attractive location for visitors next year as it hosts the Olympic Games.

‘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 take action now. We need to make sure Britain is as attractive as possible to visitors from abroad.’ Athron is part of an army of retail chiefs backing the Mail’s campaign to abolish the tourist tax.

Experts from the Center for Economic and Business Research believe that allowing foreign visitors to shop VAT-free could boost the economy by £10 billion. But cash-strapped Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has so far rejected growing calls to scrap the levy.

Concerned: Fortnum & Mason boss Tom Athron wants the government to scrap the tourist tax in the Autumn Statement

Concerned: 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 change quickly if the pound gains ground in currency markets and urged the government to take action before more damage is done.

“It’s much easier to prevent a problem from happening than to try to respond when it happens to you.”

‘Increasingly [people] jumping on the Eurostar to Paris to do some shopping. If you are a luxury buyer and spend a lot of money, you can save significantly. For us it is an indirect effect. No one decides not to shop at Fortnum because they can’t get the VAT back, but there is a mentality around shopping in London that is no longer as beneficial as it used to be.”

The Ministry of Finance has abolished tax-free shopping for foreign tourists in 2021. It has been claimed that bringing back the concession would result in £2 billion in lost tax revenue, but campaigners insist this would be offset by higher visitor numbers and sales.

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