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Volume 586: debated on Thursday 16 October 2014

I thank the Minister for her response. In Staffordshire, tourism earns £1.4 billion a year and employs 28,000 people, thanks to the excellent work of the county of Staffordshire and the city of Stoke-on-Trent. Next year, Staffordshire will host a qualifying round for the international Ironman competition, as well as the 2015 Corporate games. Given the importance of sporting events to visitor numbers around the country, what work is her Department doing to attract major sporting events to the UK? Will she ensure that, as far as possible, a Minister is present at each of them to show the Department’s support?

Considerable work is being done to ensure that we continue to bid for and host major sporting events. We have had numerous events during the course of the last three years. Hosting such events is good for the economy and tourism and of course inspires people to get involved in sport. I am sure that next year’s Ironman triathlon in Staffordshire will boost tourism even further, and I will do everything I can to ensure that a Minister attends the competition at the appropriate time.

The trouble is that a large number of the events organised around the country, which many people travel to both from overseas and from within this country, are organised by local authorities. However, local authorities up and down the land are cutting these events, quite simply because they do not have enough money and these events are not one of the statutory provisions that they have to make. Will the Government finally own up and admit that it is their cuts in Westminster to local authority budgets that are cutting off our noses to spite our economic faces?

No, I do not agree with what the hon. Gentleman says. Considerable amounts of money go into marketing the country. The GREAT campaign has been very successful and the Chancellor recently announced a 50% increase. The local growth fund, the regional growth fund and the coastal communities fund have also been helpful in growing tourism locally and organising major sporting events.

Our tourism industry is a vital part of our economy, employing over 3 million people, with huge potential for growth in every region in England, in Scotland and in Wales, but it could do even better, especially with the growing number of tourists from China and the other BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia and India. In fact, our market share of Chinese tourists is falling. What it needs is the coherent backing of Government—transport links, visa processing, skills development, and local and regional regeneration. What is the Minister doing to ensure that her Department leads the rest of Government to deliver for the tourism industry?

Our tourism strategy has been very successful. It has seen robust visa reform, cuts in air passenger duty and the creation of a tourism council. Millions of pounds have also been spent on the GREAT campaign. As a result, we have seen record visitor numbers, a record spend and an estimated £127 billion going into the economy as gross value added. I note that the right hon. and learned Lady recently launched a new tourism strategy, but I do not think it adds any more to what we are already doing, and I am not prepared to take finger-pointing from her on tourism issues.

Are figures available to show what has been happening in tourism over recent years, in respect of, say, a reduction in the number of UK citizens travelling overseas and an increase in foreign visitors? Is there something to give us a real picture of what is happening on the ground across the UK?

Various stats are always collected. As I said, we have had record visitor numbers and a record spend. The figures are monitored very carefully. The Deloitte report is always a useful document, but I would be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with a selection of stats if he would find it helpful.