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Volume 507: debated on Tuesday 9 March 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what incentives his Department provides to encourage local authorities to support local tourism initiatives. (319829)

[holding answer 1 March 2010]: Responsibility for tourism in the English regions was given to the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) in 2003. The RDAs have developed regional tourism strategies, taking into account the needs of, and opportunities for, localities and destinations within their regions.

The RDAs have invested substantially in tourism development and promotion investing some £60 million in 2008-09. Local authorities are also important partners in supporting the visitor economy. The Local Government Association is represented on the Ministers' Tourism Advisory Council and the DCMS engages regularly with local bodies such as the British Resorts and Destinations Association and Destination Performance UK.

Alongside the marketing campaigns conducted by VisitBritain and VisitEngland, a number of DCMS programmes encourage and enable local authorities to develop and promote their tourism offer. DCMS sponsors “Sea Change”, which has allocated £38 million to 32 seaside resorts, to support projects for cultural regeneration and the visitor economy. The “Renaissance in the Regions” programme is a ground-breaking initiative to transform England's regional museums. Renaissance has seen an investment of £242.8 million from 2002-09 and it is anticipated that nearly £300 million will have been invested by March 2011. We have seen recently, in the long queues at Bristol for the Banksy temporary exhibition and at Birmingham for the display of the Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo Saxon Gold, how these revitalized museums can encourage tourism.

Most recently, following on from the success of Liverpool European Capital of Culture, the DCMS launched the “UK City of Culture” competition, challenging bidding cities to develop a substantial programme of cultural activity which leads to a demonstrable step-change in their area, and a lasting legacy. Fourteen cities submitted initial bids, with Birmingham, Derry/Londonderry, Norwich and Sheffield succeeding in being shortlisted. The winning city will be announced in the summer.

In addition, whilst funding decisions are for local authorities themselves, to make, DCMS supports the Charter for Placemaking and Destination Management, developed through the “Partners for England” initiative, which provides guidance to local authorities on promoting, developing and measuring tourism, and on working with the industry and public sector partners. Local authority support and engagement will also be addressed in the England tourism strategy, currently being developed by VisitEngland.

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport whether his Department has made an investigation into the reasons for the closure of tourist and visitor centres in 2008-09; and if he will make a statement. (320975)

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has discussed the issue of Tourist Information Centre (TICs) closures with VisitEngland, and the Regional Development Agencies.

VisitEngland are undertaking some work to establish how many TICs are closing and what local authorities are doing to provide appropriate information to tourists in their area.