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Overseas Visitors

Volume 201: debated on Tuesday 14 January 1992

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To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is his estimate of the volume and value of overseas visitors for 1992; and if he will make a statement.

The British Tourist Authority's latest forecasts are that there will be 18·3 million overseas visits to the United Kingdom in 1992, resulting in expenditure of around £8 billion—8 per cent. higher than the estimated expenditure for 1991.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on those excellent estimates. Does he agree that it is about time that Labour acknowledged the importance of tourism, rather than keep referring to jobs in a Mickey Mouse and candy floss industry? Will my hon. Friend consider instituting a national tourism week, such as that organised in the United States, to draw attention to the importance of tourism and to its employment factor? Furthermore, will my—

A national tourism week would draw attention to the growing importance of tourism in the United Kingdom.

I share my hon. Friend's frustration at the way in which the Opposition persistently regard jobs in tourism without any seriousness, given the major contribution that tourism consistently makes to the economy of my hon. Friend's constituency and to the whole country. My hon. Friend works very hard with local tourist bodies to promote York as a tourist centre, and very successfully too. I will certainly bring my hon. Friend's imaginative suggestion of a national tourism week to the attention of the tourist authorities to see whether they can take it up positively.

Does the Minister acknowledge that we on these Benches recognise the importance of the tourist industry to Wales? However, whereas the Scottish tourist board is entitled to market Scotland overseas, the position in Wales is not the same. What is the Government's attitude to the Tourism (Overseas Promotion) (Wales) Bill, promoted by the hon. Member for Delyn (Mr. Raffan), to give Wales equality of treatment in that regard?

My hon. Friend's Bill has received close scrutiny and attention by the Government, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that the outocme of those deliberations will be known to the House shortly.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one reason why we are so successful in attracting visitors from overseas is the strength of the United Kingdom market? Will he congratulate the English tourist board on its initiatives in promoting domestic tourism, and consider what more can be done to highlight its profile—just to perk up the aspidistras in guest houses and hotels throughout the south of England and elsewhere?

Yes. I am happy to pay tribute to the excellent efforts made by all tourist boards and authorities throughout the United Kingdom which in their different ways do a splendid job of promoting this country's tourist potential. Some 17 million or 18 million people from abroad choose to visit this country each year. That alone is a testament to the excellent work that is done. A large number of those visitors end up on the Isle of Wight. I am surprised that, on this rare occasion, my hon. Friend did not mention the Isle of Wight, so I am delighted to do so—and to pay tribute to the work that he consistently does on behalf of his constituents.