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Volume 725: debated on Wednesday 2 March 2011


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their latest estimate of the number of people employed in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Tourism is one of the UK’s biggest employers, directly supporting 1.36 million jobs. British tourism is expected to employ 1.5 million people directly by 2020, and nearly 3 million in total if indirect employment is included.

I am very grateful to my noble friend for that Answer. Does she appreciate that the British Hospitality Association estimates that 30,000 new beds will come on stream in the next two years, providing further employment, but that the current reality is that without our overseas nationals, our hotel and restaurant industry would probably collapse? A leading restaurant in Piccadilly employs people of 32 nationalities; a leading hotel on Park Lane employs people of 60 nationalities.

Parallel to that, we have a most serious youth unemployment situation in this country. Could not the Government therefore work in a creative way to try to build bridges between our hospitality industry and those who are unemployed, and to turn the negative attitude in this country to the industry and service industries generally?

As my noble friend identified, the hospitality sector has long been reliant on migrant workers. Of course we value the skills that they bring, but we recognise that more needs to be done to attract and train people locally. Industry bodies such as People 1st and Springboard are working to improve the appeal of the industry and to demonstrate to young people the enormously wide range of job opportunities available to them.

I have a registered interest as a board member of VisitBritain. Does the noble Baroness agree that one of the great advantages of tourism is that it can bring economic development to parts of the country that other industries do not reach? There are great opportunities for British tourism over the next year to 18 months with the royal wedding, the Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but there are challenges too with rising oil prices. Will the noble Baroness ask the department to come back on the issue of visas for those coming from emerging markets? Many people from countries such as China find it very difficult to come to the United Kingdom because of the visa requirements. That one step alone would help to create even more jobs in tourism and give us an even better 18 months to two years.

The noble Baroness is absolutely right about the attractions of different parts of the country and the many big events that will happen around the UK, which we hope will bring an increase in tourism. On visas, there are figures to show that there has been a significant increase in the number of people from China applying for visas to come to this country, so the deterrent might not be as severe as the noble Baroness fears, but this is something that we keep under constant review.

Does the noble Baroness agree that it would help recruitment to the tourist industry if the Government made clear that they are taking a positive view of language teaching in British schools not merely for academic high-flyers but for all children?

The noble Baroness speaks to an issue that is after my own heart but which is slightly wide of the Question. Teaching languages and training people in this country to speak other languages is vital on all sorts of fronts. Hopefully, with the Olympics, there will be a boost because people who have trained in the hospitality sector will need to converse with all the visitors in their own language.

My Lords, if we are to have more people in the tourist industry, we must generate more visitors. A great deal will depend on repeat business. Can my noble friend tell us who in government is responsible for surveying and maintaining visitor experience in this country, and could she ask him or her to pay attention to terminal 3 at Heathrow?

Without wishing to move to another department, I think terminal 3 is slightly outside the responsibility of DCMS, but my noble friend raises a very valid point on it. Many of the responsibilities for tourist attractions are at local and regional rather than national level, but DCMS keeps the whole tourist experience under constant review and looks at how we can attract tourists and encourage them to come back again.

Does the Minister agree that the skills that are required in this industry are well catered for in the sector skills councils, in particular by People 1st, of which she has knowledge? Will she encourage government to ensure that apprenticeships are also made available within that industry?

The noble Baroness speaks with great experience of this area. Apprenticeships in the hospitality and tourism sector need to be encouraged. On the whole skills level, we hope that this sector, like others, will be given a terrific boost when the WorldSkills competition comes to London in October. We will be able to see the brightest and best of the UK competing against the best of the world. I encourage all noble Lords to go to the ExCeL centre in October to see how brilliant the skills of young people around the world can be.

Would the Minister not agree that north of the border the tourist industry would be greatly improved if daylight saving were in operation? Would it not help if time became a devolved subject so that the Scots could at least make their own decision on this, just as they do in Northern Ireland?

A Bill on daylight saving is currently being scrutinised in the other place, so we probably need to await the outcome of that. It has been clear that there is no intention that time should be devolved between the four countries of the UK. We would like to see all four countries agreeing on the same time zone.

As ever, the Minister has given us clear and concise answers and has answered many of the questions that I was going to put to her. I am sure she would agree that the people most at risk in our economy at the moment are young people between 18 and 25. Would she agree that the tourism industry is the one place where they could most easily be accommodated? What action are the Government taking to target more funds and resources on the tourism industry to stop a whole generation being denied their fair chance at employment in future?

As the noble Baroness will be aware, the Government are making funding available to the tourism and hospitality sector. On encouraging young people, I mentioned the skills competition, but there are programmes, such as FutureChef, which appeal directly to young people to encourage them to come in. This is a two-way trade. Not only do the opportunities have to be there, but young people have to demonstrate commitment and interest in the jobs. The Government will do as much as they can to encourage the jobs and the young people to fit them.

On daylight saving, is the Minister aware of the research by the Policy Studies Institute that shows that up to 80,000 jobs could be created in the UK tourist industry? Can she think of any other government decision that would cost no public money to help thousands of our young people back into work?

I thank my noble friend for that. Daylight saving is a timely issue. We have discussed it before, it is raised in the media and it is very much under discussion. However, it is currently under review in the other place, and I think we need to wait for the outcome of that Bill to see what happens following those discussions.