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Employment: Tourism and Hospitality

Volume 750: debated on Monday 16 December 2013


Asked by

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

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, the Deloitte report Tourism: Jobs and Growth, commissioned by VisitBritain and published on 21 November, states that the tourism economy directly supported more than 1.75 million jobs throughout the United Kingdom in 2013. When the indirect impacts of the tourism industry on the wider economy are taken into account, the number of jobs supported across the UK rises to 3.1 million—in effect 9.6% of total UK jobs.

My Lords, do not those significant figures and the fact that one-third of the new jobs created in the past two years have come from tourism emphasise why politicians should take tourism much more seriously? Is the noble Lord aware that the leaders of the campaign for tourism have had a meeting with the No. 10 policy unit and there has been a reply to a letter from the Deputy Prime Minister but, unfortunately, as yet, there has not been a reply from the leader of the Opposition’s office? Perhaps noble Lords opposite will use their good offices to elicit a response. Has he also seen in the Deloitte report, to which he referred, the projection that the likely 6% annual increase in international visitor spend in this country should by 2025 produce a situation where we have a surplus on our balance of payments tourism account for the first time for 40 years?

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right in saying that tourism must be taken seriously, whether it is business tourism, sports tourism or cultural tourism. Tourism is worth £127 billion to the UK economy. I am aware of the Deloitte report and my noble friend’s reference. I am nervous of offering advice to the office of the leader of the Opposition, but I suspect that a letter should be swiftly drafted.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Deloitte report also referred to the fact that 630,000 additional jobs will be created by 2025? That puts the figure at 9.9% of GDP. That is up there with some of the major industries in this country, such as financial services. There is a real need to put tourism at the heart of this country’s growth agenda. There are a couple of caveats in the Deloitte report. One is the need to encourage SMEs to get much more comfortable with the digital economy and to concentrate on emerging markets. Is there not a case for BIS, together with DCMS, to develop a programme specifically focused on encouraging SMEs to grow their offering in the tourism market? I should draw attention to my entry in the Register of Lords’ Interests.

My Lords, the noble Baroness absolutely strikes the right note. Tourism is at the heart of much of the UK economy. If you look at the countryside, there are constituencies where a very significant proportion of jobs are involved in tourism. It needs to be taken extremely seriously indeed. The other point is that whether the apprenticeships are in large organisations or smaller ones, there are great opportunities for young people coming into this industry. I take the point about SMEs. BIS is working extremely hard on apprenticeships. We very much hope that tourism will be part of the next tranche of Trailblazers’ apprenticeship activity.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the arts in the widest sense play a terribly important role in tourism, whether it is the West End theatre, the National Gallery or the Royal Opera House? These things are very important and a lot of organisations are quite stretched with declining subsidies. Given what he has just said, does he agree that subsidies should be seen as an investment?

To pick up the noble Lord’s first point, it was very interesting to see in the list of those who went with the Prime Minister to China the number from the creative industries and tourism and heritage sectors. It is a very important part of why lots of people want to come to this country. It is why Britain is fourth in terms of culture and tourism on the Anholt brands index. I very much take that point. On the question of subsidy, it is a balance of the great opportunities our culture has to generate its own funds and government grant in aid.

My Lords, I welcome and endorse all that my noble friend has said. Does he accept that many tourists come here because of the beauty of our countryside, which is being increasingly despoiled by unsightly, uneconomic and unreliable wind farms? Can we have an absolute assurance that the Government will now turn their back on these curiously inefficient structures?

Is the Minister aware that the Government have at their disposal the most wonderful Christmas present they could give to millions of people, young and old, in this country and also for tourism, which could increase by up to 10%? I am speaking, of course, of the need to introduce a lighter evenings Bill into this House. It is an opportunity that ought not to be missed and the nation would be truly grateful.

I would very much like to grant the noble Baroness a Christmas present but it would not be the one she has in mind. In Scotland and Northern Ireland there are very considerable and enduring concerns about this matter. I think your Lordships would expect these matters to be dealt with by a consensus across the United Kingdom—I stress, the United Kingdom.