Liverpool BID Company, on behalf of Liverpool business leaders, have penned an open letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt calling for the reinstatement of tax-free shopping and its extension to EU visitors, boosting the city centre economy and creating valuable jobs.

The letter reads:

The Spring Budget should include the reinstatement of tax-free shopping and its extension to EU visitors. This would have a substantial impact on the economy of towns and cities outside of London and, as the 6th most visited city in the UK, would have a major impact on Liverpool.

Liverpool BID Company represents the interests of 800+ levy paying businesses in Liverpool city centre, spread across three business improvement districts covering much of the geography of the city centre: The Retail & Leisure BID stretches from Hope Street and the historic Georgian Quarter through to the city’s retail heart and Lime Street Station; the Culture & Commerce BID spreads from the famous waterfront up to the St George’s Quarter while the Accommodation BID represents the interests of the city’s hotels and serviced economy.

Retail and high-spending tourists are a vital ingredient in Liverpool’s economy. £2.1bn is spent each quarter in Liverpool City Region’s economy covering retail, hospitality, food, drink and other services. This reaches £734m in the city centre in post Covid recovery (2021 Visa Online, Visa Merchant and Non Visa spend). Retail and high street spend in Liverpool traditionally outperforms the national average. This adds to the wider buoyancy of the city’s economy, its vacancy rate is around 5%, almost half that of the national average and shows the demand the city centre’s high streets still have for investors, small businesses and international brands.

With an international airport welcoming flights from over 150 destinations worldwide, two premier league football clubs and a vibrant music and cultural scene, Liverpool also has a strong travel and tourism sector. It is worth £3.5bn, with hotel occupancy reaching 1.98m visitors (2021). The visitor economy in Liverpool employs 58K people.

Tax-free international shopping is a valuable aspect of this. We can see the impact of this on our spend data. The total International Spend in Q3 of 2023 is down -10.5% compared to Q3 of 2022. International Tourist Spend outside of Europe has dropped -34.6% in Q3. This lack of International Tourist Spend outside of Europe is being impacted greatly by the lack of tourists from the Middle East. For example, we have seen a -48% decrease in Spend from Saudi Arabia which attributes to £493k in spend. We can also see a decrease in spend in Kuwait (-73.7%) which attributes to £469k worth of spend*.

The re-introduction of tax-free shopping would provide a much needed boost to our city centre economy translating to valuable jobs, and economic self-sufficiency. It would increase footfall in key destinations within the city centre, boosting the city’s visitor economy and tourism spend.

Tax-free schemes boost retail spending by tourists. This increase in consumer spending would increase the city’s GDP and stimulate job creation. Not only would this impact retail and hospitality, but the ripple effect along the supply chain to the wider city region and beyond would have a positive impact throughout the North West. Predicted benefits for the regions is £5bn annually, half of the total additional spending.

*All data from Liverpool BID Company

Signed by

  • Bill Addy, CEO Liverpool BID Company
  • Lucy O’Shaughnessy, Commercial Director Liverpool John Lennon Airport
  • Jennina O’Neill, Centre Manager Metquarter, Chair – Retail & Leisure BID
  • Donna Howitt, Place Strategy Director Liverpool ONE
  • Marcus Magee, General Manager Hilton Liverpool, Chair of Accommodation BID, Chair of Liverpool Hospitality
  • Julie Johnson, Business Operations Partner Morecrofts LLP, Chair of Culture & Commerce BID

To find out more, watch the Tax-Free Shopping Webinar by the Association of International Retail.

In this webinar, you will hear from industry leaders and policy experts, including our Chief Executive Bill Addy, on:

  • How restoring tax-free shopping will create growth opportunities for the whole UK
  • A new shopping-led tourism EU market worth 10bn created if it is extended to EU residents
  • How you can support to persuade the Government to revise the policy.