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Sustainable Tourism

Volume 407: debated on Thursday 19 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what initiatives her Department is taking to promote sustainable tourism in rural areas. [120193]

This Department and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have a shared interest in promoting sustainable tourism in rural areas. Accordingly, we work closely to shape policy and develop initiatives for action. In creating VisitBritain, my Department took over the former English Tourism Council's responsibilities for promoting rural and sustainable tourism policy.As part of the Government's programme of tourism reform, the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) are, from April 2003, playing a stronger part in the strategic leadership of tourism, with the Regional Tourist Boards (RTBs) as their natural delivery partners. Guidance has been issued to the RDAs on how tourism should be covered in their Corporate Plans and Regional Economic Strategies, including the development of Regional Sustainable Tourism Strategies in partnership with RTBs, and sub-regional and local tourism organisations. Advantage West Midlands (RDA) will lead this process in the West Midlands, taking into account the tourism potential of rural areas, and in 2003–04, will receive £252,000 to pass on to the Visit Heart of England Tourist Board, subject to agreed targets and objectives.VisitBritain's current domestic marketing campaign, "Enjoy England", will benefit rural tourism businesses that depend largely on domestic tourism.The Rural Enterprise Scheme (RES), part of Defra's England Rural Development Programme, provides project-based support for diversifying the rural economy. The total RES budget is £152 million (50 per cent. co-financed by EU CAP Pillar 2 money) from 2000 to 2006. Tourism and leisure projects fall under

'encouragement for tourist and craft activities'

and 'farm diversification'. Currently these measures have £55 million allocated. of which £12 million has been spent so far.

Defra is promoting countryside recreation through the new statutory right of access to open countryside. The Countryside Agency is taking forward several relevant projects, such as: integrated quality management of rural tourist destinations; retaining visitor expenditure in rural areas; promoting environmentally responsible tourism businesses; promoting local produce with the Youth Hostels Association.

Government support is not limited to direct funding for tourism. This Department alone spends some £1 billion per year, for example, on the arts, the historic environment, museums and galleries, much of which directly benefits rural tourism across the country.