Jeremy Hunt will have to bring back tourist tax cut because it drives visitors away, watches tycoon says

  • The decision to scrap VAT-free shopping has driven away tourists from the UK
  • Chief of luxury watch firm said popular UK cities have seen dip in visitors
  • VAT-free shopping allows tourists to claim back 20 per cent on what they buy

A U-turn on Jeremy Hunt’s ‘tourist tax’ is inevitable, according to the boss of Britain’s biggest luxury watch firm.

The Chancellor’s decision to scrap VAT-free shopping has driven visitors away, claimed Brian Duffy, chief executive of Watches of Switzerland.

He said places dependent on tourism including Windsor, Edinburgh, Manchester and London are suffering, while the likes of Paris and Milan are enjoying a resurgence of visitors.

VAT-free shopping allows tourists to claim back 20 per cent on what they buy. It was axed by then-chancellor Rishi Sunak when the UK left the EU. Kwasi Kwarteng tried to reintroduce the break but the current Chancellor Jeremy Hunt reversed this, claiming it would save the Treasury £2billion a year.

The Chancellor’s (pictured) decision to scrap VAT-free shopping has driven visitors away, claimed Brian Duffy, chief executive of Watches of Switzerland 

Critics said Mr Hunt’s decision was a ‘hammer blow’ to tourism and high streets, slowing the return of international visitors. Mr Duffy said: ‘All of Europe are puzzled by the fact the UK has done this, and are clearly enjoying it.

‘The ones who are losing out are UK retailers, and the knock-on effect on hospitality, travel and hotels is very, very obvious. People are redirecting their [travel] plans elsewhere.’

UK Hospitality, which represents UK pubs, bars and restaurants, said there is ‘no doubt’ the lack of VAT-free shopping is putting off visitors.

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