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Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 15 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what information he has on the amount of United States tourist dollars earned in 1986.

United States visitors to the United Kingdom spent £1,250 million in 1986.

My hon. Friend will be aware that 25 years ago both France and Italy individually earned more tourist dollars than the United Kingdom and that now the United Kingdom earns more than both those countries put together. Can he say what steps he has taken to inform the tourist industry about how to live with an extremely weak dollar this year?

My hon. Friend is right about the trend of increasing United States tourism to the United Kingdom and about the success of the industry. In 1986 we had a US-UK tourism surplus of £717 million. During the first nine months of this year there was an increase of about 25 per cent. in the number of United States tourists visiting Britain. At the present time the number of tourists from the United States is holding up well, but clearly, because of the gyrations of the financial market and the likelihood of an election in America next year, the industry must be fully alive to the challenge of competition.

The Minister will be aware thai a large proportion of American tourists have been coming into the golden triangle of London-Oxford-Stratford-on-Avon. Because they can probably get better value for money by going to other areas, and especially to Wales, can he say whether the British Tourist Association has come to an agreement with the Wales Tourist Board to increase the promotion of Wales in particular and Britain in general to those in the United States with an interest in Wales?

Yes, progress is being made. I fully concur with the hon. Gentleman's sentiments that Wales is an extremely attractive area which has many tourist attractions.

We welcome American tourists, but most of them come to London and we should like them to visit other parts of the country. Will my hon. Friend look carefully at that? What are his Department and the tourist boards doing to encourage visitors to go from London to Scotland and back to the United States via Prestwick?

The British Tourist Authority and the English Tourist Board are charged with doing everything possible to encourage tourists to move out and visit the regions and not just spend time in the golden triangle and in London. In recent years Scotland has benefited to a considerable extent from tourism.