New West End Company chief executive Dee Corsi has said not eliminating the tourist tax is a “missed opportunity” to bring money to the UK economy.

Dee Corsi

Dee Corsi said removing the tax would ‘open up a whole new tourism ecosystem’

Many retailers called on the chancellor Jeremy Hunt to bring back tax-free shopping during the spring Budget but this did not happen.

According to NWEC, international visitors made up 57% of all spending in the West End in 2019, compared to 44% in 2023.

Speaking to Retail Week, Corsi said the introduction of tourist tax has been “really felt” in the West End as the majority of tax-free shopping was done in that area pre-pandemic.

She said: “Spending is down materially compared to 2019, so whilst people are visiting, they’re not shopping in the same capacities that they used to.”

She added that tax-free shopping is something the group has “campaigned long and hard to bring back” but so far the government has not budged.

“It’s not just about the West End though, as tax-free shopping has the opportunity to benefit the whole nation,” Corsi said.

“That would open up a whole new tourism ecosystem for [people from other] countries to do some shopping while visiting other attractions in London, Newcastle, Birmingham and more. It’s a missed opportunity as it stands.”

Corsi said NWEC submits evidence to the Treasury to show how the loss of tax-free shopping is affecting the West End.

“It’s not a forecast, we give real data to show what’s happening and we’ll continue to do that whilst hopefully trying to prove the opportunity of bringing it back to the whole of the UK,” she said.