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UK government urged to approve Arrivals duty free shops at airports


In the UK, a cross-party group of over sixty MPs and Peers have written to the Chancellor calling for the introduction of Arrivals duty free shops at British airports, international rail and ferry terminals.

They claim the move would have a hugely positive economic impact for airports and duty free operators in the UK.

To provide a European perspective, independent research by York Aviation found that if the EU was to introduce a similar measure, based on 2019 traffic figures, duty free arrival shops would have generated around €4.3 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA), supported 41,500 jobs, and provided €1.6 billion ($1.9 billion) in tax revenues.

It is believed that allowing passengers to buy products such as duty free tobacco and alcohol on arrival at UK airports could see passenger spending increase by up to 30%, adding hundreds of millions of pounds worth of additional sales in the UK travel retail market.

In the joint letter, parliamentarians urged the UK government “to help our travel sector flourish and take full advantage of the UK’s EU departure”.

Stating that “this easy to implement, cost-neutral policy will drive forward investment through capital expenditure, create jobs and according to independent research, increase passenger spend by between 20 to 30%.”

Organised by the chair of the Future Aviation All-Party Parliamentary Group, Henry Smith, MP, it has received support from the likes of Sir Graham Brady MP, chair of the powerful 1922 Committee, Lord Davies, former government aviation champion in Theresa May’s government and both the Liberal Democrat and DUP official Treasury Spokesperson.

Commenting on this initiative, Smith said: “This joint letter showcases the strength of political feeling on this matter. The UK’s travel sector is vital to our economic success which our recovery will rely on.

“We need to ensure it is in a position to support a global Britain, deliver long term and sustainable jobs to the UK, and play its part in the safe and sustainable recovery of international travel. The introduction of duty free on arrival shops delivers that helping hand.”

Fundamental to this initiative is the claim that it will not take sales away from the UK’s high street and deprive UK businesses of sales. Instead, supporters believe, it will repatriate sales that currently take place at the point of departure – mostly in Europe.

The MPs state: “Regardless of whether this policy is implemented, these products will still be purchased. Duty free on arrival shops will ensure the economic benefits are realised in the UK. This is good news for our travel industry and great news for UK plc.”

This initiative is strongly supported by industry too. Francois Bourienne, chair of the UK Travel Retail Forum, noted: “Duty free on arrival shops should form an integral part of the government’s support package for our ailing travel industry.

“The beauty of this initiative is that it will not cost the government a penny. More than tax breaks or grants, the government should look to self-sustaining measures, such as duty free on arrival shops, which are mindful of the fiscal restraints on our economy and allow the industry to stand on its own two feet and flourish.

“With the European Union considering such an initiative the UK must follow suit to remain competitive.”


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