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Economy: Tourism

Volume 730: debated on Monday 10 October 2011


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their current assessment of tourism’s contribution to the United Kingdom economy.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.

My Lords, tourism directly supports 1.7 million jobs, with visitor spend of £90 billion each year. Deloitte estimates a direct and indirect value to the UK economy of £115 billion, and suggests that tourism could indirectly and directly support a total of nearly 3 million jobs by 2020. The Government’s tourism policy launched in March includes a range of proposals to help tourism achieve its potential as a central part of Britain’s growth strategy.

Following the very happy and successful royal wedding, visitor numbers at Buckingham Palace have risen by 30 per cent, and at Westminster Abbey by 60 per cent. Given the obvious popularity of the monarchy, will my noble friend tell the House what plans the Government have to promote the Queen’s diamond jubilee next year? Also, does she now agree that tourism is the probably the number one industry in more parliamentary constituencies than any other private sector industry?

Certainly my Lords. Visit Britain has created the You’re Invited programme to showcase Britain to the world and to attract more overseas visitors, and that is backed by a £100 million marketing fund, funded by the Government and the private sector. Certainly that will be used to make the most of the international interest in the royal wedding, and to build on that for the major events, marketing and PR activity that will focus on the diamond jubilee celebrations as well as the London Games themselves. As regards the noble Lord’s second question, tourism is vital to the nation, but in particular parts of the country it is a major form of employment.

Will the Government acknowledge that inward tourism is the major export industry, and a successful one, in the United Kingdom? When will the Government get rid of the pernicious air passenger duty which so inhibits visitors coming to this country and spending their money here?

My Lords, we constantly look at the different factors which might inhibit people from coming here. On air passenger duty, the noble Lord may not agree, but aviation is relatively lightly taxed in comparison to other forms of taxation. There is a consultation out for this which we will be looking at closely, and will be hoping to come back before the end of the year to see whether there are factors which might cause a need to look again at air passenger duty.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the millions of tourists who come to enjoy our great heritage assets and our beautiful countryside do not, as a rule, come to admire burgeoning wind farms? In view of the very questionable benefit to our energy supplies that these monstrosities produce, will my noble friend talk to her colleagues in the appropriate departments to ensure that tourism is not killed off by turbines?

My Lords, burgeoning wind farms are slightly outside my remit for this Question, and there are those who think they are rather beautiful in particular circumstances. I will leave that question for another day.

Baroness Billingham: My Lords, given the importance of tourism to our economy, what possible explanation can the Minister give for ignoring the potential of a 10 per cent increase in tourism at no cost whatever just by stopping putting the clocks back in this ridiculous way, which we do year after year. It is madness. Can she tell us why she is doing it?

Once again, I really cannot claim sole responsibility for daylight saving. This issue comes up on various occasions in different contexts. A Private Member’s Bill going through the other place is looking at this. The issue will not go away and is under constant discussion. The one thing the Government have made clear is that they would not wish the four countries of the UK to be on different timescales. We wish all four countries to agree if we make the change.

My Lords, we have heard that the Government have identified tourism as one of the five industries which will drive the UK economy. Given that next year we join the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which will see taxation for travellers to the UK increase, and given that many of our European competitors are doing away with aviation taxation to stimulate tourism, what is our response to protecting our own tourism industry, also given that, in terms of tourism taxation disadvantage, the UK is 134th out of 139?

My noble friend raises a very important issue. We are fully aware that tourism is a very competitive industry, so the UK must always ensure that it is not being outgunned on different fronts by other countries, that the unique assets in our countries, which tourists might want to visit, make it worth while and that the finances do not discourage people from coming here rather than going elsewhere. All these matters are currently under consideration to try to ensure that we make the most of people coming to our country and that they get a warm welcome here.

My Lords, tourism is clearly one of the most important potential growth sectors in the economy. Can the Minister explain what the Government have done to ameliorate the damage caused to the tourism industry by the riots last August?

My Lords, that is obviously a very concerning issue on all sorts of fronts, one of which is tourism. The pictures that went around the world were not such as would attract people to come to this country. We hope that more positive messages have gone out since then. The causes of the riots are obviously being looked at, tackled and addressed, but we hope that we will send out positive messages about the parts of the country which were not subjected to riots so that people are not deterred from coming to visit this country.

My Lords, will the noble Baroness agree that, as a matter of information, all timescales are not the same, as she said in her reply, because Scotland and Wales have to rely on Westminster for theirs whereas Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man are able to choose their own? There was an amendment to the Scotland Bill which allows the Scots to choose their own timescale and so increase their tourism by having lighter evenings if they so wish.

My Lords, I cannot really add to my previous Answer. It is for the Government to consider that they wish the four countries of the UK to be on the same timescale. My understanding is that most of the resistance comes from Scotland, rather than Northern Ireland, for very valid reasons in which some people there believe. We shall just have to wait to see how this discussion unfolds.