OPINION - The Standard View: London’s visitor economy is booming – now time to ditch the tourist tax

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Londoners may occasionally take it for granted, but for millions of people, a visit to the capital represents the highlight of their year. And the city’s tourist economy is “roaring back” to life, according to the Mayor, as research collated by City Hall finds flight bookings and international arrivals have risen substantially compared with 2019.

Two million further visitors are expected to arrive this year compared with 2022, which is forecast to generate an additional £674 million in revenue. The capital was also the top city in the world for overnight stays last year.

This being the British summer, there are a few clouds on the horizon, most notably the impact of the so-called “tourist tax” — the end of VAT-free shopping for foreign visitors. While the above figures are certainly worth celebrating, retailers reveal that conversion rates have fallen as tourists “browse here but divert spend to their European counterparts” according to Dee Corsi, chief executive of New West End Company.

London’s grand international reopening is cause for celebration, but we ought to make the most of this influx of visitors. Until we scrap the counter-productive tourist tax, the capital is leaving money on the table.

Tech to help heal NHS

The NHS needs more cash. But an injection of funds is not the only solution to what ails it. Technology is a key avenue for improvements in efficiency. As we report in today’s newspaper, surgeons are losing an entire working month each year as a result of inefficient IT systems.

The Standard has previously reported how surgeons at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust have performed a week’s worth of operations in a single day thanks to the DaVinci surgical robot. We need more of this.

Similarly, researchers from King’s College London have found a lack of access to community support is driving people with dementia to A&E, when they would be better treated away from hospital. Clearing the NHS backlog and addressing social care are two enormous challenges, both of which will require extra investment. But we must work smarter too, harnessing technology and bringing a holistic approach which ensures more beds are available for those who have no choice but to visit a hospital.

The Truss effect

Never let it be said that temp staff cannot make a lasting impact at work. Almost three-quarters of adults in Britain believe that Liz Truss changed the country for the worse during her 49-day premiership — a view that depresses support for the Conservative Party to this day.