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 Global Blue, the experts in retail tourism, has today launched their manifesto for a Tax Free Shopping Revolution, backing the Government’s plan to digitalise the Tax Free Shopping system announced by the Chancellor in the Autumn Statement last week.

Following June’s referendum vote to leave the European Union, the UK has seen a successful summer of tourists taking advantage of the attractive exchange rates due to the weakened pound post-Brexit. Global Blue has recorded a significant increase in International Tax Free Spend throughout the months of July, August, September and October, which have seen an increase of 7, 37%, 18% and 41% year on year, respectively.

Gordon Clark, Managing Director Global Blue UK & Ireland says: “Most of the world’s top tourist destinations offer tax free shopping and their numbers are increasing every year. To remain competitive with tourist destinations in Europe and throughout the world the UK has to have a strong and effective tax free shopping system.

“With 82% of leisure visits and 64% of all visits to the UK involving shopping, we are calling upon retailers across the country to encourage growth in the number of participating stores throughout the UK. Together, Government, retailers and refund agencies can revolutionise tax free shopping in the UK and give Britain’s economy a much-needed boost.”

The number of inbound visits in 2015 grew 5% to a record 36.1 million[i] and Global Blue anticipate that figures for this year will be even greater with tourists maximising upon the post-Brexit opportunity for shopping in the UK.

Global Blue aims to build on the Government’s action to move to a digital tax free shopping system by exploring every element of the tax free shopping journey to see where we can all make improvements to provide customers with the best service in the world.

Global Blue forecasts a digital update in the current tax free shopping system will bring significant economic benefits to the UK, including a rise in inbound tourists, more annual international spend and an increase in jobs, all of which will contribute to a predicted increase to the UK’s GDP.

Currently, tourists visiting the UK have to use a paper-based system to claim back their tax, which is time-consuming and has potential for fraud – both of which devalue UK’s tax free shopping offering.

Global Blue’s manifesto has one core aim: to make Britain’s tax free shopping the best in the world. As such, Global Blue has condensed their proposed agenda into eight points that capture the key benefits of implementing a digital system:

  • More shops offering tax free shopping
  • More use of tax free shopping as an attraction when marketing Britain abroad and at home
  • A more efficient and secure tax free shopping system
  • The best customer experience in UK shops for international tourists
  • A better customer experience when leaving the UK
  • Fewer opportunities for fraud
  • Clear and simple coordination with Europe following the break from the EU
  • Constant improvements to keep up with international competitors

The international tax free shopping experts are commissioning fresh research into the economic costs and benefits of tax free shopping to demonstrate in more detail the net benefits to tourist destination.

Mr Clark adds: “Hugely important, the tourist industry accounts for 9% of the whole of the UK’s GDP, with a value of £126.9 billion, £24.2 billion of which is generated by inbound tourism.

“Offering tax refunds makes great economic sense – it allows a country to compete with rival destinations for that valuable tourist spending. The variety, quality and cost of tax free shopping are major elements of our country’s appeal to international tourists giving us a competitive advantage, particularly over our European neighbours.”

In addition, through the publication of over 9 million SHOP magazines and maps, and the creation of a wide range of online content, Global Blue helps its retail partners reach and engage with 30 million Globe Shoppers annually.

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