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Volume 748: debated on Tuesday 8 October 2013


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the importance of tourism 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 makes a major contribution to the economy in all parts of the United Kingdom. In 2011, tourism directly contributed £53 billion to the economy and employed 2.7 million people in full or part-time jobs. The Government place great importance on this industry as part of their strategy for growth. That is why we are investing more than £130 million, matched between the public and private sectors, in the GREAT and other marketing campaigns.

My Lords, the reality is that successive Governments have treated tourism as a Cinderella industry. If you look at the rates of air passenger duty and VAT, we are internationally uncompetitive. On visa requirements, France gets six times the number of Chinese visitors that we do. Tourism was not mentioned in the manifestos of any of the parties at the previous election. As a result of the reshuffle, we are now on our ninth tourism Minister in 10 years. Is my noble friend aware that 33 tourism bodies have today come together to form the campaign for tourism to argue that tourism should be much higher up the political agenda, and that they have written to the party leaders and are determined that tourism will be supported to enable it to fulfil its true potential?

My Lords, I am, indeed, aware of the campaign and its letters to the party leaders and other interested groups. I have read its letter, which a wide range of organisations has signed. I am sure I shall have nothing to do with the writing of any of the party manifestos, but I encourage the writers and all of us to think very strongly about that important sector, tourism.

My Lords, I am sure that Members are aware that we have at our disposal, at virtually no cost, an opportunity to increase tourism by at least 10% by introducing a daylight saving scheme in this country. We have tried this—noble Lords groan, but it is even more important now with our economy as it is and given the fact that we have an Olympic legacy, on which it was said that we would produce a new sporting generation. Daylight saving would enable young and older people to partake in sport outside for much longer, it would be much better for all of us and there would be a saving in energy. It is something that I hope the Minister will take back and use his persuasive powers to have reintroduced.

I thank the noble Baroness for her observations on daylight saving, which has come before your Lordships before. I think it is fair to say that everyone has sought a consensus across all parts of the United Kingdom. This has always been a problem, particularly for our friends in the northern part of the kingdom. That has been the worry and it is traditionally why we have felt that there should be a consensus. I am also particularly struck by the successes of sports tourism, and of course we very much look forward to the Tour de France in Yorkshire next year.

Will the Minister agree that London is an extremely important part of the tourism industry and will he therefore pay attention to the point raised earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Sugar, about the appalling level of roadworks in London, which makes it extremely difficult for tourists to get around, increases pollution and is extremely unsightly? Will he consult the Mayor of London about doing something to ease this problem? We were promised before the Olympics that once the Olympics were out of the way everything would be much better. Will he please talk to the mayor about this?

My Lords, I would, of course, be delighted to speak to colleagues. We all suffer from the inconveniences of roadworks. Obviously, they are intended to improve the passage of us all once they have been achieved, but I understand entirely the point that my noble friend has made.

My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will agree with me that the arts play an incredibly important role in tourism, and the arts are very much under threat at the moment, as he knows. However, given that the BBC, in the form of the promenade concerts, is a boilerplate for tourism in this country, perhaps this is a good moment to welcome the return to Reithian ethics—education, entertainment and information—as stated by the new director-general this morning, with more emphasis on the arts in future. Will he welcome that?

My Lords, I certainly welcome what the noble Lord has said about the importance of the arts, not only to the domestic market but to many visitors from abroad. Museums and galleries are already doing a lot of work, as part of their China Ready programme, preparing for speakers of Mandarin and making sure that guides are in Chinese. So there is a lot going on in the arts sector.

In relation to tourism and sports, I am sure that the Government will be aware of the fact that tomorrow at Buckingham Palace the Queen’s baton relay for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games begins its trail round all the countries of the Commonwealth and back to Glasgow next summer. Will the Minister not only congratulate those involved in reaching this important juncture but commit the UK Government to supporting the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council in making the most of that event next summer for tourism for Scotland and the whole of the UK?

My Lords, I could not endorse more strongly what the noble Lord has said. Not only will Buckingham Palace be a great venue for that but the venue for football yesterday shows that royal palaces get involved too, which is excellent. I think that all your Lordships would want to strongly support the success of the Commonwealth Games. They speak not only for the Commonwealth but for the sporting traditions of all those countries. I certainly wish the Games extremely well.

My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that with events such as the Rugby League World Cup, which is occurring this month, we have a golden opportunity to bring all these supporting bodies together in a coherent structure? If we cannot learn from the Olympics how to get the best out of something, we really are in a very sad state.

My noble friend again is correct. Tourism and sport help so much with dialogue between nations. Not only is that the case with rugby league but in 2015 VisitEngland will be actively supporting the organisers of the Rugby World Cup. Across the piece, many sports are very important to tourism.