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Volume 724: debated on Monday 17 January 2011


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support tourism throughout the regions of the United Kingdom, particularly in the run-up to the Olympics and other international sporting events.

The Government are creating a new overseas marketing fund and a new tourism strategy in order to create a sustainable legacy for tourism from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and from other major events such as Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee. The overseas campaign aims to deliver 1 million additional overseas visitors in each of the next four years and £2 billion in extra visitor spend.

I thank my noble friend for that response. What structure is in place to encourage people who are attending events that may last several weeks to travel, for example, outwith and between matches in the international rugby union world cup, and to see other cultural events and sites around the country during that experience?

My noble friend raises a very important issue to do with tourism. Major events give communities the opportunity to promote their regions on the world stage. VisitEngland is working with the regions to highlight our heritage and culture, as well as the wonders of the towns and countryside, and it is hoped that the major sporting events will give a boost to particular areas. People will have every encouragement and publicity to venture further afield.

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree—I think that she does, because I have asked her before—that the arts and cultural sectors of the UK are an extremely important draw for tourists? Is she aware that Arts Council England is engaged, as a result of cuts to its funding, in a major review of its entire portfolio, and has made it fairly clear that at least some organisations that provide important artistic events across the country will cease to be funded in the next two to three years? What impact will that have on tourism?

The noble Baroness is quite right; I agree with her once again that culture and the arts are vital. She will also remember that when the coalition Government came into office, they did not inherit the most favourable economic situation, and unfortunate cuts have had to be made in all sorts of areas. Certainly, support is available for the arts and heritage, and major funds are being set up to ensure that we do not lose the treasures of this country.

Does my noble friend agree that it is also very important to encourage tourism and sporting events after the Olympics? In that context, will she give an assurance that the Government will do all they can to ensure that an athletics track remains a permanent feature of the Olympic stadium, regardless of to whom it is sold?

My noble friend will be aware that there are extensive plans to ensure that the legacy from the Olympics continues well into the future, and the facilities that have been set up specifically for the Olympics will be of great benefit as the years go by. The track will obviously be an important part of that.

What consideration has the noble Baroness given to using the Games to ensure that disabled tourists have equal access to shops, attractions and hotel rooms, bearing in mind that disabled people have money to spend and that businesses not far away from here are blatantly ignoring current disability access legislation?

I am concerned to hear the noble Baroness's last point. That is something that we would wish to investigate in great detail because, as she rightly says, all those attending the Olympic and Paralympic Games, particularly those who are disabled, will need additional resources and specific information about where appropriate accommodation is and what the events and venues are. Over the years, we have taken strides to ensure that our venues are fully accessible to those who suffer from a whole range of disabilities.

The Question links sport with tourism. Does the Minister agree that both those activities would benefit enormously by having more light at the end of the day rather than at the beginning of the day? We return to that issue time and time again. She might also be well aware, because we have debated it here, that 82,000 new jobs would be provided in the tourism industry if that were enacted at a time when jobs are being lost from every sector of our country. How on earth can her Government refuse to consider this seriously at long last to enable those jobs to be provided—jobs that more than likely would go to young people and women, the very people who are more likely to lose their jobs in a recession?

The noble Baroness will be aware that a Private Member’s Bill on daylight saving is currently going through the other House. This issue comes up regularly and there seems to be growing enthusiasm for it. It is a matter for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and ultimately a matter that all parts of the United Kingdom need to subscribe to before we can change the system.

My Lords, the five destination management organisations in the north-west are at present significantly funded by the regional RDA. With the RDA being phased out and the development of the LEPs being patchy and embryonic, will my noble friend tell us what transitional plans the Government have to provide support for the DMOs during this period?

I pay tribute to my noble friend’s expertise in tourism and, indeed, to his commitment to the north-west. This region has a great many natural attractions. With a proactive strategy to encourage tourism, he will be aware that the DMOs are taking on tourism activities, and VisitEngland is actively helping to ensure continuity. The north-west might also consider applying to the regional growth fund, which is a fund of £1.4 billion and which will be open for tourism-related funding applications.

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the Commonwealth Games are coming to Glasgow in 2014. Can she give an assurance on behalf of the Government that this forward-looking tourism strategy will take into account the importance of that event not just for Glasgow and Scotland but for the whole of the United Kingdom, and that the Government will work with the Scottish Government to ensure that it is a success for the economy as well as for sport?

I would sincerely hope so. The tourism strategy is currently at a far stage of development. It has not yet been announced but will be shortly, and I am quite sure that the Commonwealth Games will feature very strongly.