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Climate Change: Tourism

Volume 692: debated on Wednesday 23 May 2007

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What is their response to the impact of climate change on the United Kingdom’s tourism industry.

My Lords, the Government recognise the important impact of climate change on the United Kingdom’s tourism industry in all its myriad activities and locations. Government at both national and regional level agree that sustainability must be fully integrated and built into all tourism policy and practices. That has been our approach and that of our partners in developing the 2012 tourism strategy. Much has already been achieved to meet environmental challenges head-on.

My Lords, first, I acknowledge the Minister’s Answer and declare an interest as chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, whose 40 members receive more than 1 million visitors a year. The broad view of the tourism industry is that although climate change will be beneficial, particularly, for example, for our traditional seaside resorts, there are a number of negatives, such as erosion to our built heritage, storm-related pollution and fires on moorland and in forests. Given these challenges, does the industry not need, and is it not entitled to, more support and acknowledgement from the Government than it presently receives? We are in a situation where the DCMS does not have tourism in its name, where a likely-to-depart Secretary of State has taken very little interest in the industry, where a departing Prime Minister cannot wait to holiday abroad, and where an incoming Prime Minister does not seem to take any holidays at all.

My Lords, on the more substantive points, we agree with the noble Lord that certain aspects of climate change might benefit certain parts of the tourist economy. However, tourism is a very important part of our economy and it is not fair of the noble Lord to suggest that we do not pay enough attention to it. We are concerned to give the necessary support to the various tourist boards, particularly VisitBritain, of which he is chair. As he will also recognise, our whole strategy for the 2012 Olympics acknowledges that not only the sporting dimension but the cultural and tourism aspects need a great deal of attention, which they will receive. We all stand to benefit from that.

My Lords, will the Minister explain why daylight saving has not been incorporated into the forthcoming climate change legislation, the 342-page energy White Paper or the forthcoming ministerial Statement after Question Time? Will he therefore say why the Government think that lighter winter evenings will not assist sport, tourism or the hotel industry? Will he also explain why the Government think that daylight saving cannot save up to 1 per cent of electricity generation and subsequent carbon emissions? Finally—

Listen to this, my Lords, because I never get a proper answer here.

Finally, will the Minister say why the Government consider that the switch to daylight saving by harmonising our timescale with Europe will not benefit the environment, the tourism and travel industries and all businesses that trade with the continent of Europe?

My Lords, I hate to disillusion the noble Lord, but a long question is no guarantee that the answer will be any more precise. I assure him that we recognise the case which he advocates for daylight saving. I know that he has strong links with Scotland. As he will know, support for daylight saving is not universal in Scotland. He will also know that there have been changes in Scottish politics in the past month or so which mean that the Government ought perhaps to adopt a consultative stance on this issue rather make a dramatic intervention at this point.

My Lords, following the recent helpful reply from the Government to my four Written Questions about the involvement of the hotel industry in saving energy, and particularly turning off lights and heating at high noon in high summer in hotel corridors, will my noble friend redouble the Government’s efforts to enter into a dialogue with the hotel and leisure industries on the many ways in which they can reduce energy wastage?

My Lords, I assure my noble friend that that dialogue is going on. As the wider public become more and more aware of the necessity for all of us to contribute our part in combating climate change, they will expect hotels and other purveyors of tourist facilities to be able to demonstrate that they are playing their part in those terms. The Government are working alongside the tourist industry to equip it so to do.

My Lords, in the long term, climate change is likely to make parts of northern England very attractive for people from Europe to come to on holiday. Have the Government yet begun to give any long-term thinking to the kind of infrastructure required to enable that to benefit the north of England? And has the Minister noted the report in the newspapers today that the Lonely Planet guide has said that, in the event of London becoming too hot and uncomfortable to be in, Manchester is already available and appropriate to be the capital of this country?

My Lords, like the right reverend Prelate, I am always astonished that Europe has not discovered the delights of northern England already. Let me confirm to the House that Manchester is a very important tourism destination and, as he indicates, its future looks bright against the changes that he has identified.

My Lords, can the Minister think of any reason other than extreme Euro-fanaticism for giving up Greenwich Mean Time and adopting Berlin Mean Time? Is it not rather absurd to suggest that noon in England is when the sun is on the meridian of Berlin?

My Lords, I think that the case is argued less in terms of pro-European fanaticism and more in terms of extending or, more accurately, changing the daylight hours in Britain, which is regarded as an advantage by its advocates. However, I am with the noble Lord on this matter. I am not convinced of that case as yet.

My Lords, notwithstanding the potential benefits that climate change might bring to the UK tourism industry, is the Minister aware that more than twice as many people are leaving this country to go on holiday as are coming here on holiday from overseas and that that is largely to do with the increasing and unfettered development of the low-cost aviation industry? Does he not agree that the time is coming—indeed, has already come—when some brake should be put on that development?

My Lords, I hope that we do not need a brake on that development but that we encourage British people to recognise the advantages of their own country for excellent holiday facilities. That means that we must certainly improve quality in certain areas; but, against a background of summers being more benign in future than we have known them to be in the past, there is no reason at all why we should not see a shift in demand.