Motion to Take Note
My Lords, tourism means jobs. That was the title of a pamphlet I wrote as an MEP 20 years ago. Its driving thesis has changed little. If anything, its central point has intensified as unemployment, especially youth unemployment, now stalks a new generation of jobseekers in Britain and across the European Union.
I suggested then that, in the PM’s current favourite expression, politicians “don’t get” tourism. There is a complacent belief that as tourism is a successful industry it does not need help when, instead, we should have bold ambition to increase the UK’s market share, currently standing globally at 3.5%. Tourism is a diffuse industry, scattered over many venues, enterprises and activities, and it is assumed that it will look after itself. By contrast, the car industry for instance, which my noble friend Lord Mandelson helped a few years ago, has a higher profile than tourism although it supports many fewer jobs. The view that tourism is a low-skill industry with uninteresting, poorly paid jobs is misguided. The indolent attitude that no one goes to university to study tourism—and that if they do it is to Oxford Brookes rather than Oxford University—is the kind of a cultural snobbism that ill behoves us in the 21st century.
I have elsewhere debated the very real contribution that the UK’s arts and culture make to tourism but why, oh why, do we leave the tourism and hospitality industries to recline, repine and decline in DCMS, which does not even have the grace to reflect tourism’s concerns in its name? My first question to the Minister is: did his brief come solely from DCMS or did he consult widely with BIS, the Treasury and the numerous other departments which have a fat finger in the ever-growing pie of the tourism and hospitality industries? Will the department finally consider including tourism, its biggest industry, in its title? Many of these cobwebbed myths need to be blown away. I hope that this afternoon’s debate will provide an exhalation and an exhortation, because tourism indeed means jobs.
The UK tourism industry employs 3.1 million people. The sector is Britain’s third-largest employer, sustaining one in 10 jobs. It is Britain’s fastest-growing sector. One in three of all new jobs comes from tourism. It supports a quarter of a million businesses. Most are small businesses—indeed, many are microbusinesses. Seven out of 10 of them employ fewer than 10 employees. Disappointingly, the Government’s otherwise welcome Bill on small businesses fails to acknowledge the particular potential of tourism’s small firms. The Government might have had the wit and imagination to introduce a tourism Bill instead of sending us in this House on ever-extended holidays.
It is no surprise to learn that it was the 1964 Labour Government who pioneered the first tourism Act. Will the Government do anything specifically to help tourism in the small businesses Bill? Will the Minister be so bold as to introduce, 50 years on, a new tourism Bill to help the industry? The tourism and hospitality industries employ one in two part-timers, mainly women, 50% more young people under 30 than other industries, and significantly more employees from minority communities—all groups suffering from this Government’s careless decision to contract the economy.
What should be in any new tourism and hospitality Bill? First, VAT. The 2013 study by the World Economic Forum on international competitiveness shows that the United Kingdom now ranks 138th out of 140 countries on price competitiveness. The chief culprits are air passenger duty and VAT. We charge the full 20% VAT on accommodation, where the average charge of our competitors throughout the European Union is half that. We apply a full rate on restaurant meals and on admissions to cultural attractions and amusement parks. I am not amused—especially given that research done by Deloitte has shown that reducing VAT on those items to 5% would boost GDP by £4 billion per annum, create 80,000 new jobs over three years and deliver an extra £2.6 billion to the Exchequer over the next decade.
Why are Her Majesty's Government so deaf to the cost of living of tourists in the United Kingdom when a change in VAT would bring the returns that I have outlined using the Treasury’s computable general equilibrium model? Do the Government “get” that inward tourism should be understood as part of our export drive? Our faltering export drive badly needs help from the tourism industry. Why do the Government hesitate to pluck the low-hanging fruit of tourism and its offer of jobs?
The self-inflicted folly of air passenger duty means that a visiting family of four from China or India, flying economy class, are supercharged coming into this country by £340 as of April this year. Research by PwC has shown that abolishing APD would boost the UK’s GDP by 0.5% in the first year alone, create 60,000 jobs and generate a further £500 million of revenue from other consequential and related taxation. The recent decision to eliminate bands C and D of APD is a welcome but small relief to the industry. If the Government refuse to cancel air passenger duty, would they at least look at removing it for children under 16—the effect of which would be to encourage family travel into the UK? I repeat: why are this Government so reluctant to help inbound tourists and families with their cost of living?
Others will doubtless comment today on the Prime Minister’s lack of concern over the availability of UK passports for holidaymakers leaving these shores. However, this brings me to the vexed question that I wanted to ask about visas. A UK short-stay visa costs £83 compared to £50 for a Schengen visa, which permits visitors access to some 25 European Union or EEA countries—to their tourism industries’ complete and distinct competitive advantage. Visitors from visa-requiring nations account for some 10% of all the 3.2 million visitors to the UK annually and generate some £4 billion in revenue, due to their visitor spend being double the average. To give a positive example, since the 2009 decision to give Taiwanese visitors visa-free entry into the United Kingdom, their spend has grown by 62% from a 43% growth in their numbers. By contrast, visa requirements imposed on South African nationals have cut their numbers by 23%.
Most astonishing of all, the number of Chinese visitors to the United Kingdom has grown by a slender 36,000 out of 42 million outbound Chinese tourists as a whole. Why so few? The Government have made some cautious steps to deal with the difficulties of encouraging Chinese visitors, who are currently required to fill in two visas to visit Europe—one for the UK and the other for Schengen. However, can the Government confirm whether the Home Office will renew the trial of using approved tour operators based in China, which has helped reduce red tape? Can the Minister also address the discrepancy between the international passenger survey figures, which show a 13% increase in Chinese visitors to the UK, and those offered by the Home Office for the same period, which show an increase of some 40% in processed visa applications from China?
Can the Minister also assure us that Home Office figures will be released without the current nine-month delay that is, frustratingly, being experienced? We urgently need real-time border admissions data to help the tourism industry prepare and plan. Moreover, what is going wrong in Russia, where a change of service provider for visas has led to poor service, delays and cancelled trips? Can he also elaborate on the welcome decision to set up a tourism council, as announced at the BHA’s recent hospitality summit? What will that do and will it have any funds?
Many years ago, I was the first tourism chair for Cheshire County Council and a deputy chair of the North West Tourist Board. However, in recent years, the ability of local authorities to help their local tourism and hospitality industries has been ruthlessly cut, and the abolition of the RDAs has removed a further £60 million from the agents of regional tourism development. Can the Minister give any idea of how the LEPs are meant to fill this role and how they might develop local marketing campaigns with ever-reducing resources? What are HMG doing to spread the benefits of tourism throughout the nation and regions? As Hull, the capital of culture, has proved—as Liverpool did before it in 2008—tourism can spread its proven benefits of jobs and growth to the regions, thus complementing London.
Given the multifaceted nature of tourism, I would like to hear from the Government about how they plan to nurture changing forms of tourism such as agritourism and ecotourism, or hands-on tourism associated with, say, archaeological digs. As I learnt from the Tourism Society, the tourism trend is that one in 10 of us as grandparents will have responsibility for our grandchildren on holiday. This change needs to be reflected.
Had I but world enough, and time, I would also ask for updates on education and training for the many rewarding jobs and apprenticeships for our young people. I am also interested in the Government’s plans to reinforce minimum wage rates in these industries, and ask whether they will move to the living wage as standard.
I will say a few words about Britain’s engagement with the European Union and about Europe’s challenge to maintain its position as the world’s top visitor destination. Does the Minister accept that tourism and travel are the quintessential single-market industries? The ambition to sweep away the tiresome red tape of 28 countries is worthy ground on which we should participate to make ourselves much more competitive. Does the Minister agree that loose talk of leaving the European Union costs jobs? Given that we already stand outside Schengen and the euro, we simply cannot afford to absent ourselves from the fray of maintaining and sharpening our competitive edge, especially at a time when Lithuania is joining the euro and Lech Walesa in Poland has called for Poland to do the same.
It is partly our attitude to the European Union that will guide our future and the future of the tourism industries, but we will need to make an effort in that regard. It will be a folly beyond words if we try to have a referendum on the subject in the year 2017 when we will be assuming the British presidency of the European Union. With that, I conclude.
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for introducing this debate on tourism. I thank him in particular for the way in which he has worded its title because it deals with tourism in the UK and the EU. For those of us who have interests in Scotland, to have a debate in this House where we can include Scotland is getting increasingly rare, and this is a good opportunity to do so.
The noble Lord spent the first part of his speech in what I call a heavyweight approach to tourism. I will conclude mine with such an approach, but I shall start on a more lightweight and parochial note and declare my interests. I am a trustee of the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust; I am chief executive and trustee of the Clan Sinclair Trust, which is a heritage charity in the north of Scotland; and I have been and still am heavily involved in ancestral tourism.
I start with the Castle of Mey. The noble Lord said that tourism is all about employment, and of course it is. At the castle we employ 50 staff during the summer months and we have six full-time staff who are employed all year. We have had 250,000 visitors through our doors since we opened in 2002. One has only to think of the knock-on effects that were not there before on B&Bs, hotels and campsites from those visitors to realise their importance. In our shop we use local produce whenever we can, and by employing local people, even part-time, we are keeping money in the local area—in the local pot—which is one of the huge advantages of tourism.
Like other tourist attractions, we are seeking to diversify. We are introducing high-quality expensive stays at the Castle of Mey. This is an area that is hugely important in Britain. We are in an international competitive market and unless we can produce high-quality products that people want to come to, they will go to the rest of the world. We have no divine right that means they will automatically come here.
We are also having an annual exhibition at Mey. This year we, like many others, are commemorating the First World War. That is highly appropriate at Mey. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s brother was killed at Loos in 1915, and she lost two of her cousins. Part of the exhibition is devoted to her family connections with the war.
The Castle of Mey is a five-star visitor attraction. In order to attain that, a mystery visitor comes to the castle unannounced, does his or her report and the stars are awarded. It is nothing to do with the Castle of Mey, but a friend of mine did a mystery visit to Historic Scotland in Inverness. VisitScotland has done very well under the Scottish Government, but it is very much oriented towards the central belt. My friend went into the tourist office in Inverness and asked for visitor attractions north of Inverness. There are two five-star visitor actions in Caithness: the Castle of Mey and Caithness Horizons, but the member of staff could not think of any visitor attraction north of Inverness. There is a two-and-a-half-hour drive up to the north coast, and there are lots of visitor attractions on the way, but the member of staff failed miserably. Historic Scotland has kindly given us five stars at Mey, but I would give VisitScotland no stars at all on a local basis. It makes life very much more difficult.
Part of the problem is that tourist attractions and hospitality tend to be on the small scale: 80% of tourism and hospitality businesses employ fewer than 10 people. That makes it very hard to get recognised. It also means that one tends to have poor cash flows. One tends to rely on volunteers and, in an increasingly digital age, that makes it harder to keep up to date. It also makes it hard to fill in the endless funding application forms, which are increasingly difficult to fill in, and puts smaller businesses at a disadvantage.
My research in Northumberland backed my view of that experience in Caithness: we do not have the right infrastructure for tourism on the ground. There is no overall group enthusing and co-ordinating these small businesses and making them fulfil their potential. We have VisitScotland, VisitEngland and local authorities but, as the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, said, politicians do not get tourism. They are not working together, and the present structure is not as good as it should be.
Let me give another example from Scotland. In the Year of Homecoming in 2009 I was involved with the Gathering in Edinburgh. It is true that the company was a private enterprise and lost money and some businesses in Scotland lost a little money. That was very sad, but when you think of the overall effect, the Gathering brought more than £10 million to the Scottish economy. The ROI on public funding was more than 20 to one. It was a tragedy that there was not a way between the private sector, the Scottish Government and Edinburgh City Council to make certain that local people who lost money were reimbursed because with another homecoming this year, we could have had a bigger and better gathering. The 2009 homecoming brought thousands of the diaspora to Scotland for the first time. We could have done more in a bigger and better way, but we could not get central and local government in Scotland to work together properly with the private sector in a manner that could be trusted and would work well.
My research in Northumberland reveals exactly the same problem. Why is this? Northumberland has a huge amount to offer, with lots of opportunities for future tourism. In 2016, Kirkhale is commemorating the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown. If Northumberland got its act together, that could be a wonderful way to bring more tourism, which has declined since the financial crash of 2008 and has not recovered to its previous levels. There is still a lot to be done.
I therefore ask my noble friend the Minister whether the Government think that the present system is working well. If it is not, what can they do to improve it? Or does the Minister think that the Government ought to step back from tourism and say, “Okay, we have one foot in tourism, but the other foot is hanging around outside. Would it not be a good idea to get rid of the Minister for Tourism and pass the whole thing over to the private sector with a little bit of funding? Yes, we will pump-prime certain organisations, which will be the umbrella organisations that you are all demanding. This will be the new system, which works, and we, as the Government, will get out of it and let you, the private sector, which knows about business, get on with it rather than being half in and half out”?
I now turn to a more heavyweight and less parochial view of tourism, and follow the lead given by the noble Lord, Lord Harrison. It is important that tourism is based on stability and safety. There is little tourism in Crimea and Iraq—but there is a lot of tourism in Europe. We are extremely fortunate that we are part of a union that has been relatively stable, except for the odd occasion, since 1945. That is the basis of a successful tourism industry. We must not jeopardise that.
The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, rightly mentioned the question of visas. If a visitor gets a visa for the Schengen area, they have the right to go to 25 different countries. However, there is a barrier in coming to the UK and we must not forget that that barrier could become much worse on 18 September if the Scots vote for independence. Barriers and borders are completely anathema to tourism. Tourists do not like borders. If we are to have a border across the middle of the mainland of the United Kingdom, it will jeopardise tourism both north and south of that line. Everybody in the north of England should be aware of the consequences of having a border. I saw an extremely good television programme recently about the “middle land” of Britain, and how this community was divided by Hadrian’s Wall once upon a time, and could now be divided again. That would not be good for tourism.
Does my noble friend consider that PricewaterhouseCoopers’s thoughts and recent research on air passenger duty are correct? If air passenger duty produces £2.8 billion per annum for the Government, is that a better way of getting money than getting rid of APD, which PWC says would boost the economy by £16 billion in the first three years? Not only that, it would create 60,000 new jobs in the UK and an additional £500 million in increased revenue from other taxation. Talking about taxation in the round—as a former Treasury Minister I understand that that is hugely important for central government—why have one tax that seems to raise a bit of money, whereas abolishing it could raise a whole lot more? It is less obvious, but that is surely to the benefit of the country, which is what we are talking about.
I also support the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on the question of VAT. It is strange that France and Germany have VAT on tourism at 7%, while ours is at 20%. If you run a small tourist business, that 20% will be very damaging to the cash flow. Fortunately, the trust of which I am a member is a charity, but if it was a pure business—if it was a hotel—that would make a huge difference to its profitability, and to the future of tourism.
Surely we need more people to come to this country, so we need to make it as competitive as possible. Will my noble friend say what the Government’s thoughts are on getting rid of those barriers that both the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, and I have raised? I am sure that other noble Lords will raise it, too. How will we make the country more attractive, particularly for the high-end visitor? That kind of person will spend a vast amount of money, and he or she needs to be attracted. If that person has to pay more for a visa here, they will not come. Tourism is growth and the economy—let us back it.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on securing this debate. He has been a great champion of the industry for many years here and, as he told us, he has had practical experience in Cheshire. If the noble Lord ever thinks about giving up politics, I suggest he would make a wonderful toast-master, as he has the right bearing and a marvellous voice as well.
I had the privilege of introducing the previous tourism debate in the Moses Room in April last year. On many occasions I have said in this House that I believe that tourism is the number one industry in more parliamentary constituencies than any other single industry. Just think about it: there are our coastal resorts, the Lake District, Yorkshire, the West Country, Scotland—where it is perhaps equal with whisky, but certainly very important, as we have heard from the noble Earl—our historic towns such as Stratford, York, Chester, and our big cities with increasing tourism industries, obviously not least London itself.
I declare an interest as chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions—ALVA—all of whose 57 members get more than 1 million visitors a year. I am delighted that my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft is in her place and that we will hear from her a little later. She is a very distinguished trustee of the British Museum. Of those 57, most of the royal palaces are members, and we have our great cathedrals—Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s—great museums and national galleries. They are the icons. With the best will in the world, visitors do not come to this country for our hotels or restaurants, although they want good hotels and restaurants. They come because of our heritage. The members of ALVA also include the National Trust, with a magnificent 4 million members, and English Heritage, with wonderful sites such as Stonehenge. I am sure we will hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, a little later, who was recently such a distinguished chair of English Heritage. We also have as members Warner’s studio tour of the world of Harry Potter, Chester Zoo, the Eden Project and the Churches Conservation Trust, which is apposite to the previous debate, on parish churches. Treasure Houses of England is a member, and we have sister organisations such as the Historic Houses Association. Of course, those appeal much more to the domestic visitor.
The vital message overall is that we need continuous investment in our attractions, with continuous refurbishment and upgrading to maintain and improve the quality of our offering. While quite rightly we endeavour to obtain more charitable funding from individuals and the corporate sector, I suggest that at the end of the day the Government have a major responsibility—certainly for the national museums and galleries that they support.
Sadly, as has been said, Governments and politicians of all persuasions have not in the past taken tourism seriously. At the last election, there was no mention of tourism in any of the major party manifestos—none at all. That is why the tourist industry has come together in the campaign for tourism to make sure that, in the coming election of 2015, tourism at least gets a mention. We have had meetings with the Prime Minister and the leader of the Official Opposition, and I am seeing David Laws next week, who is leading on the Lib Dem manifesto. We have meetings with the Deputy First Minister in Scotland and soon, I hope, with the Welsh First Minister, to press the case of tourism.
In recent months, to be fair, there have been some welcome signs that the Government have been getting the message. We have had some improvements in visas—I acknowledge that—and some alleviation on air passenger duty. Of course, last week the new Tourism Council was announced, focusing on employment issues and bringing together BIS, DCMS and the industry. I welcome that council—it is a step in the right direction—but I have some caveats. First, we really need a council that goes much wider and involves many more government departments. The Treasury needs to be involved because of VAT and air passenger duty. Transport needs to be involved because of the infrastructure issue. The Home Office needs to be involved because of visas. Secondly, to succeed, the council needs to be chaired by a senior Minister—a big hitter—not one or more junior Minister. I speak from some experience, having been a junior Minister and having endeavoured to put together just that sort of body more than 25 years ago when I was Tourism Minister.
Thirdly, despite the focus of the council on employment, the industry’s sector skills council, People First, is apparently not represented on the council. Fourthly, also we have no representative from destination management organisations, which deliver tourism at local level. Fifthly, and very importantly, there is no real representation from the SMEs that make up 80% of the tourist industry. I very much welcome the council’s creation but it has to be built up and expanded. I hope that the Minister can respond to some of my individual concerns.
Tourism is a massive generator of new jobs—one-third of the new employment in the past two or three years. It is an industry that has the ability to take on employees at all levels, from the unskilled right the way through to the skilled. I am afraid that there are those who in this country drone on all the time about immigration. Without all those who come from the EEC to work in our tourism and hospitality industries, our hospitality industry would absolutely collapse. This morning, for example, I had breakfast in a small hotel; there were two waitresses, one from Italy and one from Romania. Almost all the staff who come to this country from the EEC are smart and keen and very pleasant. What are the Government doing to encourage our indigenous youth to really participate?
Too few people appreciate the relationship that exists between a service industry such as tourism and manufacturing. They too often denigrate tourism because it is a service industry. The reality is that they are complementary. Let us take our aerospace industry, where we have a major position in the world. How much of aerospace manufacture comes from travel and tourism? Or let us take the construction industry in this country, and the very considerable development in recent years of budget hotels. Another example is that of Merlin, one of our very successful entertainment groups, which has a £40 million annual investment programme this year, with developments at Chessington, Alton Towers and Sea Life in Birmingham. We should think also about all the food and drink consumed by domestic and overseas visitors.
When the noble Earl talked about Northumbria, I was reminded of my experience more than 25 years ago, when, as Tourism Minister, I visited the Northumbria Tourist Board, as it was then called. The very impressive chair of that tourist board told me that the only way she could get funding for tourism in Northumbria was to take money from the fire brigades’ budget because at that time tourism was not acknowledged as a serious industry, particularly in the north-east and Northumbria. Thankfully, there has been considerable improvement in that regard.
I conclude by suggesting two things that would give a huge boost to tourism, and at no cost. The first is to revisit the whole issue of double summer time. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, will appreciate this. The extra hours of daylight that would be gained by introducing double summer time would give a huge boost to the tourism industry and benefit sport and road safety as well. Therefore, I hope that we will revisit that issue. My second point has been mentioned. Given tourism’s importance and its potential, for heaven’s sake let us now include it in the title of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. That is a long overdue and well deserved measure.
I congratulate my noble friend on his remorseless determination to ensure that tourism is at the heart of our economic policy. Whenever he speaks about tourism, he brings to it even greater conviction than when noble Lords spoke in the previous debate. I am always very pleased to participate in debates that he leads. He will not be surprised when I say that I am bound to talk about heritage, as the noble Lord, Lord Lee, anticipated. However, I will also talk about Wales and the issues that it faces in relation to tourism; and, indeed, the issues faced by the regions in ensuring that the wealth generated by tourism spreads beyond London.
The whole world had a fireside view of Britain during the Olympics and of the spectacular heritage that we hold in trust. That is really paying off in that at present you can hardly cross the road outside the Palace of Westminster because of the crowds. At a time when the world is becoming so monolithic, not least because of social media, people are desperate to encounter something different. They come to the UK because we are definitely different in the density, quality and diversity of our heritage. As the noble Lord said, it is a question not simply of our great monuments but of our market towns, our parish churches, our landscapes and much more. It is about the spirit of place.
We have heard a lot of statistics, but I wish to give a few more. Tourism is expected to grow in the future by 3.8% a year between 2013 and 2018. That is faster than retail and, God knows, we in this country like retail. At the heart of this is what we call in shorthand heritage tourism. Thirty per cent of overseas tourists claim that heritage is the main reason for them visiting the UK. It is stronger than any other single factor. In fact, I was rather surprised to note that 48% of visitors holidaying in the UK visited a castle or historic house. That is more than went to museums, art galleries and theatres. The fact that 43% went to museums and art galleries, and 14% to the theatre, also shows the enormous pulling power of culture and the arts as a whole.
So much of what our visitors come for is, indeed, to do with the spirit of place, as will be appreciated by anyone who has tried to get into Sissinghurst recently to see the glory of the gardens there, the Bloomsbury house at Charleston, the Charleston festival or the Bronte parsonage. These small, very fragile places are full of enthusiasts who have come from across the world to see where their favourite writers, artists and, indeed, scientists lived, which is reflected in the great success of Down House.
Brand UK is about the things we cannot measure, sometimes the things we take for granted. Over the years, we have saved, protected and invested in our heritage. Investment pays off. After 25 years, during which Stonehenge was described, chillingly, as a national disgrace for the state it had fallen into, with dreadful provision for visitors and little interpretation, the situation is transformed thanks to English Heritage. The new visitor centre is open and the landscaping of the monument well on the way to completion. Even though it is not complete, visitor numbers are already running way ahead of budget, which shows the relationship between the quality of the offer and the enthusiasm of the visitor. The lesson here is that we need to take this seriously and invest in the care and protection of heritage. We need to support private owners as well as public monuments. We need to ensure that there is the right amount and type of interpretation to excite, animate and bring visitors back many times.
One area that is ripe for more exposure to visitors is our world heritage sites, of which there are 27 in this country. There is no connecting story because they are very different. They range from Blaenavon, the home of the industrial revolution in south Wales, to the great social experiment of Saltaire, and to Blenheim, which is one of the great houses. They are extraordinary in their beauty and diversity. We should be making more of them, and I hope that VisitBritain will do so.
We can quantify the value of heritage almost to decimal points. The latest survey that the Heritage Lottery Fund commissioned from Oxford Economics made it clear that since the last data were collected in 2007, tourism has reached over £14 billion in its contribution to GDP. In 2007 that figure was £12 billion. It also produces more jobs. In 2007 there were 270,000 jobs in heritage; now the figure is 393,000. These are jobs ranging from specialist curatorial staff to the fantastic people in the shops and those who serve walnut cake and tea. That is all part of the reason why people keep returning. Then of course there is the huge force of volunteers. We are talking about real skills, real opportunities and real jobs.
The important thing about this is that it does not stop at income coming in. It brings investment that is about sustainable development. It is hardly surprising that other countries are looking at our fabulous National Trust in order to set up their own national trust to take care of their national heritage.
Heritage is also powerful because it is about local economies, which is why getting people out of London and beyond Oxford and Cambridge is vital. On recent heritage open days there were more than 2 million visits to historic properties. Norwich alone, for example, raised £735,000 from those visitors. Considering that we have just come through the worst recession in our history, these are impressive figures.
I am overdosing on statistics because I want to emphasis in the concluding part of my speech the absolute necessity of getting some of this wealth out of London and into other parts of the UK—particularly into Wales, which desperately needs to rebalance its economy and put its enormous assets and skills to work in different ways. It has some of the highest levels of poverty, unemployment and child poverty anywhere in the UK. With those come poor health, poor aspiration and achievement, and cultural and social exclusion. Wales needs new national and local economies, hence the emphasis on apprenticeships and the digital economy, for example. Wales needs every penny that it can get out of tourism, domestic and international. That means investing in its natural, historic and cultural assets. This is only common sense because Wales is a small but smart country. It has everything going for it in terms of tourism, which is already its third most important industry.
The genius of tourism is that it could be Wales-wide. It can be everywhere for everyone. It touches every corner and provides local jobs for local people. This is evident on the ground because wherever you go in Wales you fall over or into a castle, an abbey, a prehistoric site, a magnificent industrial landscape or a fabulous National Trust property. We have the homes of poets, artists and musicians. Brilliantly, Wales is the nation of the book. This year we have the Dylan Thomas festival, which is drawing in lots of visitors, as is the RS Thomas centre in Bangor. So there is no limit to what we can use our cultural assets for. We have coming in Bangor a wonderful new cultural centre called Pontio, which will be an intellectual and cultural centre for north Wales. We also hope, in addition to the three world heritage sites that we have in north Wales, that we will have a fourth in the form of the fantastic slate landscapes of north Wales.
So why am I concerned? We have all these assets, so what is the problem? The fact is that international tourism is simply not doing as well in Wales as it is in other parts of the UK. In Wales, 92% of tourism is domestic; international tourism is only 8%. The problem is that international tourism accounts for 16% of spending. Given the disproportionate benefit it is therefore all the more serious that in the past few years Wales has lost a quarter of a million visitors from overseas. It is such a source of concern that the Welsh Affairs Committee is now looking at how Wales can present a more compelling picture of itself to the world. We know that we have a fantastic product; it is just a question of how that information gets out to the rest of the world. If we could only do what the Hay festival has done and go viral. Sadly Hay is over for another year, but it has gone global. It is now held in six or seven centres all over the globe. It is a model of what Wales needs to do. Our national museums are forever taking their collections abroad and welcoming international visitors.
Visit Wales is doing a brilliant job of branding Wales. The problem is that the consensus seems to be that VisitBritain could and needs to do more. It is not difficult to sell London: it sells itself. Wales needs extra help. The evidence is that VisitBritain needs to identify Wales’ appeal and sell it more energetically. The fact is that in the cutthroat competition that marks global tourism it takes a huge and concerted effort to break through into new markets. VisitBritain’s job is surely to help all the constituent parts of the UK to achieve that breakthrough. I hope that role will be reinforced in the course of the imminent triennial review of VisitBritain, and I hope in particular that it will be reflected in new formal key performance indicators and targets. That might help to drive some of that energy from London and into the regions.
It should not be difficult to do that. VisitBritain itself cited recently, in evidence to the Welsh Affairs Committee, a survey of European visitors who said that the thing they most wanted to do when they came to Britain was to go on a tour of Welsh castles—more than to go to Buckingham Palace or Anne Hathaway’s house. I am delighted to hear that. However, Wales needs more exposure to generate curiosity and appetite. The NATO summit at Celtic Manor in Newport in September is a great opportunity to showcase Wales, but we have to ensure that Wales maintains and increases its investment in tourism and the things that people come to see, and in the care and animation of our monuments. It is essential that it promotes museums and collections to throw their doors open wider, and connects the natural history and the historic landscapes. Above all, we need better infrastructure. We need far better local transport in Wales. The loss of some local buses is a very sad story. We certainly need a better hospitality offer.
Can the Minister tell me what VisitBritain is doing to promote Wales specifically, and what future plans it has to ensure that Wales can capitalise on its assets and draw in more of the benefits of overseas tourism? I would be very grateful for anything that he can say on that.
My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, since she talks about an area I wish to pay particular attention to. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, has given us this opportunity to raise these matters. The Minister might expect me to talk about music, the arts and their value to tourism. However, he has heard me talk on that subject many times. There is not a great deal I can add. What I would like to talk about—this follows on from the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, about Hay—is landscape. This also follows on a little bit from our debate on parish churches.
Aspects of life in the United Kingdom—and I deliberately mention the United Kingdom, including Scotland—have been an important part of our heritage: the fact that people can go to churches and concerts and to Hay, and they can walk in the mountains. There is one thing that I am most concerned about, and here I should declare an interest as president of the Offa’s Dyke Association. While I, like everyone else, have concerns about climate change and can see the need for renewable energy, I am worried that dealing with those issues is going to impinge on areas of tourism that we need to protect.
Recently, the Welsh Assembly Government—this affects Shropshire and Herefordshire as well—commissioned a policy study into the potential effects on tourism of wind farms and their associated infrastructure, particularly that for the transmission of energy. I do not want to overstate the case but I am talking about areas where people come to walk. The 2014 study showed quite clearly that the imposition not just of wind farms but of the associated infrastructure—roads have to be widened and pylons have to be built—has an effect on areas where people make repeated visits because of the tranquillity of the landscape. This is particularly applicable to Her Majesty’s Government because, as I said, this will affect not just the Welsh Marches, although that is where the energy will begin, but Shropshire and Herefordshire as the energy is taken across.
As noble Lords know, Knighton appears in my title. The town of Knighton is on the dyke—hence my being the president—and I am particularly concerned with that area, although a lot of the transmission will be north of there. However, even we are faced with a wind farm overlooking Offa’s Dyke and a grade 1 Repton landscape at Stanage Park, identified by Cadw as being of great significance.
I think the Government have begun to recognise that there are very strong feelings among the people who live in these areas and that their feelings should be taken into consideration. My concern is that, if we do not look at what we are doing to this countryside, it will be too late. Things will go through and we will find very important landscapes blighted.
Although farming provides the main form of income in mid-Wales, tourism is incredibly important. People who come regularly to walk the dyke stay at hotels and bedsits in Knighton. If any noble Lords have the energy and the desire, I can thoroughly recommend it. However, the owners of these establishments are all incredibly worried. When this matter was aired, more than 1,000 people wrote to say that they were worried about their livelihood, as opposed to about 300 who wanted wind farms there.
Therefore, I ask the Minister to look at this area in particular—the Welsh Marches and the Welsh landscape. The wind farm that I am talking about began life with Herefordshire County Council to avoid bringing in Powys, but in fact there has to be access through Powys. Therefore, it is a cross-border matter and a minefield in planning terms, as I completely recognise. There is a very strong feeling among local people that their views are not being heard, and they are worried about their future in terms of tourism. Therefore, I should be very grateful if the Minister could look at this matter more carefully.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, on alerting us to the importance of tourism, in a speech delivered with his usual passion.
My first involvement with tourism was when I was a member of the Heart of England tourist board. Until then, I had always marvelled at the way so many overseas visitors would do Europe in a week and then return home, exhausted and saturated with facts, hardly able to remember the country in which these riches were situated. It was while on the board that I realised what an unrivalled treasure trove of history and culture we enjoyed regionally and nationally. This was during a comparatively early stage of the development of the tourist sector in this country. At that time the challenge was to get visitors to visit not only London but our wonderful towns and countryside beyond. Since that time it has been truly exciting to witness the expansion and development of one of our major industries to visitors from overseas. At the same time, I remain hugely supportive of home tourism and, in particular, opening the eyes of young British people to the wonders around them that are taken for granted.
I wish to concentrate on the joy of seeing the expansion and development of this industry. It is such a joy to see so many people visiting our country. In recent times, it seems that London has become a magnet for tourists from all over the world and is now the most visited city in the world. People, young and old, flock to our magnificent city—a city which, under the excellent leadership of the mayor, deserves great credit for revitalising itself and now presenting itself as the place where everyone wants to be. You have only to be in a taxi, on a bus or on the Tube to be intoxicated by the sense of excitement. There is freshness and brightness all around and an impression of vitality and purpose in a city at ease with itself.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, that the Olympics of 2012 were the real trigger. They created an infectious energy and enthusiastic anticipation which spurred us all on to present our country in the very best light. The whole effect was magical and I am sure we all felt enormous pride in what we achieved. I loved every moment of it, particularly the time I spent at the Olympics and the magnificent Paralympics. As a consequence, my family and I are going to Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games. I wish the City of Glasgow every success and I hope that the spin off will result in a legacy which will serve the nation well.
All this activity, as well as many other government initiatives, has contributed to yesterday’s announcement of the employment figures. Tourism is now the fastest growing sector in the UK in employment terms. Two million new jobs have been created in the private sector since 2010, 345,000 being added in the three months to April 2014. This is the biggest quarterly rise since records began in 1971. Simply put, more tourism means more jobs. From January to March this year, overseas residents’ visits are up a staggering 10% and holiday visits are up 19%. It is now estimated that earnings from overseas residents will be up 14% for this year. That is real progress. We all think things can be improved—it will always be thus—but 14% is a great achievement.
Over the years I have come to appreciate how fortunate I am to live in the leafy lanes of Warwickshire and close to the thriving, bustling town of Stratford-upon-Avon, one of the most visited towns outside London. Wherever you go in the world, however remote, people will always have heard of Stratford. Of course the name is associated with that of William Shakespeare and, for me, there are few events as touching as his annual birthday celebrations, particularly this year, the 450th anniversary of his birth. The sheer number of people who come from all ends of the earth, carrying their country’s banner, all clutching simple bunches of flowers, never ceases to impress me. That special celebration takes place only once a year, but great numbers of people visit on a daily basis, and that requires delicate handling to ensure that inhabitants living in and around Stratford and the welcome visitors are able to enjoy all the amenities that the town has to offer.
Managing large numbers of visitors is a delicate matter. We now have a thriving tourism sector that is contributing much to our recovering economy. Does my noble friend agree that it behoves us all not only to welcome our visitors but also to ensure that their visits are for them, as well as for us, memorable experiences?
My Lords, I also thank my noble friend Lord Harrison for initiating this debate. When he rises to speak, I always feel like saying, “Speak up!”. He has a wonderful way of getting our attention.
I have to make an admission; as David Cameron might say, I have to fess up. I would really like to be two and a half miles down the road at the Queen’s Club, and I can see that one or two people have just arrived from Lord’s, but there we go. Such is my enthusiasm for this topic that I had no hesitation in signing up to the debate. It is another opportunity—we have discussed this issue in various forms two or three times—to listen to some powerful contributions. I shall be using all that material in our coming debates, and I hope to be able to make a small contribution myself. I am delighted to be here and I hope very much that I am not going to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Lee.
My noble friend Lord Harrison is right to focus on the contribution of both tourism and hospitality in the UK and across the EU. It is my view that governments of all kinds have been slow to realise the potential of tourism. As I have said, we have debated this issue a number of times, yet the political outcomes continue to be disappointing and progress is painfully slow. So while I take a negative view of what has been achieved so far, perhaps I may make some positive suggestions on how the contribution can and should be improved.
First, I should make two declarations of interest that are relevant to the debate. My long-term involvement in sport of all kinds is reflected in my chairmanship of the Lords and Commons Tennis Club, which is a very distinguished organisation. That is matched by my being the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Lighter Evenings. Let me begin with the latter.
The campaign for daylight saving has at its core a way of making better use of the daylight hours that we receive in the UK. It would mean moving the clocks two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time in the summer and one hour ahead in the winter. The effect on our lives would be profound. We would enjoy considerable environmental bonuses, better road safety, and health and leisure advantages, all of which would outweigh the disadvantages of darker mornings. The benefits are many. Carbon emissions would be greatly reduced. Road safety would be significantly improved as road deaths and serious injuries diminish. The organisation RoSPA is a powerful advocate and has provided some statistics that point out the enormous benefits to cyclists, motorcyclists, and a reduction in the number of children who are killed or injured on our roads because they would come home from school in daylight.
But most crucially in terms of this debate, daylight saving would contribute to the expansion of domestic tourism and would make more visitors come to the UK from overseas. It would boost the UK’s leisure and tourism earnings by up to £4 billion per annum and provide up to 100,000 jobs. Other Members have discussed this. These would be jobs for young people, in areas where they are probably most needed. With sensible foresight from the Government, we could see our economy boosted by at least 10%, at virtually no cost or detriment to our citizens. By not doing this, the Government demonstrate their short-sighted policies and lack of commitment. I call on the Government to bring legislation in to give the British people all the benefits that daylight saving would bring and, by doing so, to show more basic common sense.
My second plea, and criticism, of the Government is to utilise Britain’s unique heritage, which we are discussing this evening, not only in sport but the arts. At the Olympic Games, we showed our ability to draw worldwide approval for what was dubbed “the greatest show on earth”. The Government have been rightly criticised for not making the legacy of the Games more dynamic. We have the ability in the UK to draw a sporting map across the whole nation, at all times of the year, yet no attempt has been made to co-ordinate and promote our sporting events. It is now time, surely, that the DCMS is properly resourced and funded in order to do this.
Alongside our sporting excellence, what steps have been taken to promote British arts across the world? At best, the Government’s response is patchy and, at worst, I have to say it is amateur. The potential for tourism in all these areas is immense. Will the Minister assure us that the coalition, however doddery at this moment, will come together to support and promote our magnificent assets? Unless it does so, an amazing opportunity will be lost, which would be tragic. I hope that the Minister will be able to give some assurances and at least take back to the Government our misgivings about the future of tourism. I believe that we are looking a gift horse in the mouth—it is time we got on and saddled it.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for initiating this debate. I have found the debate so far exceedingly helpful in identifying a range of issues that the Minister might be able to respond to. I am particularly pleased to have heard two references to the county of Northumberland, which is very close to where I live and which I know extremely well.
I thank the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for posing a question which I think is likely to prove very instructive, about who is responsible for organising the celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot “Capability” Brown in 2016. As his birthplace was Kirkharle, it will presumably be the responsibility of Visit Northumberland, and Northumberland County Council may have a role in working with it.
However, there is a broader question, because Capability Brown worked on many gardens across the country. It will be very helpful to look at that co-ordination as a case study in whether all the different agencies are sufficiently integrated. I am clear in my mind about the role of VisitBritain and the roles of VisitScotland, VisitEngland, Discover Northern Ireland and Visit Wales. Those are pretty clear. Then there are all the destination agencies—there are a large number of them—which do an exceedingly good job in promoting their own local areas. As a tourist, I find that extremely helpful. So many private sector providers, transport organisations and voluntary and public bodies are involved in tourism and make a big success of it. As the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, rightly pointed out, it forms a key part of our economy. It is a success story. It is becoming even more successful, despite some of the doubts that have been raised—some of them understandably, but let us turn those into an opportunity.
I pay particular tribute to English Heritage and the National Trust for their major contribution to the experience that their visitors have. I am a member of both of them. I visited Osborne House on the Isle of Wight 10 days ago and I was really struck by the quality of the presentation of the history of the house and all the rooms, and the grounds, all of which were outstanding. The access arrangements, the signage, the knowledge of the staff and the catering were all of an exceptionally high standard. Those standards are replicated right across the UK. I think that they are very much higher than they used to be, which gives this country a competitive edge.
Does the system work well? I think it would help if the Minister could give an answer, either today or at a later date, about how all the different agencies work together. The importance of tourism’s economic contribution cannot be overstated. It is 9% of total UK GVA. It is 3.1 million jobs, almost 10% of the UK total. It is the third-largest employment sector, as we have heard. There are two key facts that we should not miss. First, 28% of those who are employed in tourism are aged between 16 and 24, compared with only 12% in the wider economy. Secondly, one-third of net new jobs in the UK economy between 2010 and 2012 were created by tourism. Those two statistics tell us that there is great potential in tourism and hospitality for entry-level training. Given the very high level of youth unemployment, it is important, as my noble friend Lord Lee pointed out, that the sector as a whole takes the opportunity to develop the skills of more of our young people.
Of course, to do that requires the growth in tourism to be closer to where the jobs are needed. There is an issue about the uneven growth across the UK, given the appeal of London to inbound tourists. We have to do more to persuade visitors to look beyond London so that tourism grows across the country as a whole. We should note that since 2008 the number of inbound trips to London has increased by 14%, while the number of inbound trips to other parts of England is still 4% lower than it was then. According to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report, there are signs that numbers will return this year to where they were six years ago, but that is still well behind the growth being experienced by London.
I believe that the success of the Plan for Growth adopted by the Government in 2011 is the reason why London is currently doing so well. It seems a well executed plan. It is worth £100 million overall. It plans to get 4 million extra visitors to the UK and it has undoubtedly driven up visitors numbers in the past couple of years; otherwise, it would have been a failure. Of course, most people, particularly those who are new to the UK, want to come to London to sightsee, I understand that. Given that most international flights land in London, that is where they are brought to. The result is that 54% of all money spent by visitors to the UK is spent in London.
That is a good thing for the UK economy, not least because it creates jobs and tax revenue. Crucially, it gives an opportunity for people who are coming to London to go somewhere else in the United Kingdom. The question is how we persuade more of them to go elsewhere in the UK. One simple way of doing this is to encourage greater use of entry and exit at regional airports to make use of their spare capacity, which in many cases is very substantial; for example, I understand that Manchester Airport uses only 44% of its capacity; Newcastle has even greater spare capacity than that, and it should be utilised. The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, made a very important point on air passenger duty as well as VAT. Air passenger duty has been a problem for regional, non-London airports. The Government recently did something about that. My view is that they need to go even further to encourage more people to land in regional airports.
Research by VisitBritain which I have seen identified a lack of knowledge of British destinations other than London as one of the key reasons why relatively few overseas visitors travel any further. I see that as an opportunity for the rest of the UK. The Growing Tourism Locally campaign is an example of best practice and how to fund awareness-raising activity. I am the deputy chair of the independent advisory group on the regional growth fund—although I was not on the growth fund for round 2 allocations. There has been a three-year campaign, between 2012 and 2015, part-funded by the £19.8 million from the regional growth fund which is being delivered by VisitEngland in partnership with destination management organisations and private sector partners. The campaign intends to generate £365 million of additional tourism spending over those three years and create 9,000—or more, it hopes—new jobs in the sector. From the first year, it seems that the project is on track to do that. Obviously the growth fund is dependent on objectives being achieved. Certainly that dual-key system, in which the government RGF is matched with private sector funding, seems a very worthwhile way of proceeding.
In the remaining couple of minutes available to me I should say something about the barriers. I hope that we have covered the question of who is responsible for what and that we are being absolutely clear. However, the document from VisitBritain that I read talks about “British image” and the experience available. It is not that the rest of Britain has a bad image, but people are asking, “What can you do outside London?”. A second area of challenge is said to be the product: does the tourism offer meet consumer demand at the right level of quality and price? Then there is the matter of working with travel agents and tour operators to sell Britain. Then there are access issues, particularly around air capacity and visa policy. We have heard those matters addressed, but I want to add another one.
In all the documents that I read in preparing for this debate the word “language” was hardly ever mentioned. There is an assumption that everybody can speak and read a high quality of English. Where English is a second language for an overseas visitor, we need to audit what we can provide—say to a visitor from Russia, Portugal or Greece. Can they press a button in an English Heritage property and be given a guide in any one of a wide range of languages? Similarly with hotels, the digital technology should exist to do that. We should then look at how complex it is to do things as an individual: how you buy a rail ticket, and which train you are allowed to be on without being fined because you got on the wrong train going out of the wrong station at the wrong time.
With those sorts of difficulties, are we certain that we are as visitor friendly as we really ought to be? I conclude that there need to be many more package tours. Indeed, VisitBritain’s Foresight report—No. 117 in July 2013—raised this issue. It is very clear that large numbers of potential tourists coming to London would like a package tour to go further into England, but somebody has to organise it. I would love it if the Minister could tell us who he thinks that responsibility lies with.
I have said enough. There is an urgent need to get more tourists travelling elsewhere in the United Kingdom out of London. In terms of finance, there needs to be a discussion about who is responsible for what between the taxpayer, the individual tourist and the private sector. At some point, there needs to be a further discussion about who has which responsibility for ensuring that we continue to have a vibrant tourist industry.
My Lords, I add my voice to those who have already thanked the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, for instituting this debate, giving us the opportunity to talk about the importance of tourism. Given the statistics that we have heard this afternoon, nobody can doubt that it is a crucial industry for this country.
This week, the International Festival of Business is under way in Britain. About 250,000 people are expected to attend. It is the country’s biggest festival for 50 years, and there are to be more than 300 events taking place over 50 days. I suggest that a few of us here may not have been aware of the festival going on. The reason is that it is not taking place in London. The festival is all about winning contracts and generating business, and it is being held in Liverpool. Each day visitor is expected to be worth £54 to Liverpool, and each overnight visitor £271. That is before they have signed the billions of pounds-worth of contracts that the Government are hoping will result from the festival.
The reason that the groundbreaking festival is being held in Liverpool is because the Government are not just intent on rebalancing the economy in terms of sectors; they understand the need to rebalance the economy geographically. We have already heard a lot about why that has to be done. The bias of tourism towards London is just part of that.
Tourism is not geographically spread in Britain. As others have said, London welcomes a huge amount of money, with over 16 million international visitors every year but too many of them venture no further. As the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, detailed, the number of inbound tourists to London has grown by 14% while that to other destinations has fallen by 4% since the start of the recession.
London is a wonderful city, but this is a wonderful country. Visitors to Liverpool will be able to enjoy a rich choice of museums and galleries, more parks than Paris has to offer, imposing architecture and music of every kind. Those who wish to can even visit the homes where John Lennon and Paul McCartney grew up. Here, I had better declare my interest, although the noble Lord, Lord Lee, did part of that for me: I am deputy chairman of the British Museum and am honoured to be a member of ALVA, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, which he chairs.
Partly because of my role in the museum, I shall come to extolling the virtues of our great national arts establishments and their role in tourism. First, however, I want to mention some of the other unique attractions that this country has to offer the adventurous visitor. In Wakefield, for instance, there is the Museum of Mental Health. In Kent, Leeds Castle has a dog collar museum—dedicated to the canine variety, rather than those who grace our Benches. In Boscastle, there is a museum of witchcraft. Back up in Merseyside is what I believe to be the world’s only lawnmower museum, although I may be wrong.
In 2012, we saw how effective a great sporting event can be in bringing tourists to this country. The noble Baronesses, Lady Billingham and Lady Seccombe, referred to the Olympics. However, we do not have to wait for another Olympics to court sporting visitors. On 5 July the grand départ will take place in Leeds as the Tour de France gets under way, and there are the Commonwealth Games to look forward to.
For those who like their sport a little more offbeat, the UK has much to offer. The noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, failed to mention the world pea-shooting championships in Cambridge, the world egg-throwing championships in Lincolnshire or the annual bird man competition that takes place in Worthing each year and seems to demonstrate that man really was not built for flight. Then there is the annual cheese-rolling contest that takes place near Gloucester. We really should get more overseas visitors to see that; think what France could do in retaliation.
Britain can certainly boast that it has something for everyone but, as the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said, we are not getting enough people out from London to experience these varied delights. Festivals can draw huge crowds and we need more festivals. In 2012 in Sydney, for instance, there was a celebration that lit up all its buildings, which brought in a huge number of overseas tourists and yielded, I think, an extra £10 million in income. France is very good at festivals—not just film festivals but folk festivals, too. Every town seems to have a festival of some sort that attracts specialist visitors, who are often high-spending ones.
There are festivals in this country that work terribly well. We have heard about Hay but there are recently established festivals, too. In Folkestone, inspired in part by Sir Roger De Haan and his extraordinary philanthropy, there is now the Triennial arts festival, which draws large crowds into the town every three years. Some of that art stays, making Folkestone now rather more of an artistic hub than it used to be. However, there is still not enough to get people from abroad out of London. The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, came up with the idea that perhaps there need to be more package tours. He is probably right but I do not see this as something for government to get involved in. Why can some bright youngsters not set up some travel companies? If this is to work, it should be a commercial proposition. Let us get on to it.
There are other things that need to be done to encourage tourism. We should be able to attract more tourists than we do and keep them for longer. Bruce Chatwin, the renowned travel writer, once wrote:
“Walking is a virtue, tourism is a deadly sin”.
How wrong he was and how much better Britain has become at treating tourists as if they are valued rather than merely tolerated or, as sometimes seemed to be the case, unwelcome. Yet it is not just regionally that tourism is unbalanced, as Britain runs a tourism deficit. What is going on at the Passport Office may do something to redress this but, at the moment, more people leave this country on holiday and spend more abroad than come here on holiday and spend. This is a challenge and an opportunity but we are in a competitive market. This week, for instance, the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority is taking a six-strong delegation to Japan and Korea to stimulate visitor demand. It cannot boast about its cheese-rolling competitions or modern art galleries but it is making much of its golf facilities and the relative value for money of its hotels.
In such a competitive market, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to come here, which means talking about visas. Several people have spoken about those already but it is absolutely essential that we make it easy for those who travel further and spend more to come here. The Government are taking steps to improve the situation in regard to China. In particular, they have a pilot scheme under way enabling recognised travel agents to use a single set of data to issue Schengen and UK visas. I would be very interested to hear from the Minister whether that pilot is working and how it is to be developed. It is absolutely crucial to get those from what is now the world’s second-biggest tourism economy coming here. At the moment, we get only one-sixth of the Chinese visitors that France gets. I gather from a friend who was in Versailles at the weekend that there is a downside to having so many visitors at once. As we have heard, it is very difficult to entertain too many people at once but I would prefer to be wrestling with that problem rather than the lack of visitors. Nevertheless, the Government are taking tourism seriously.
My noble friend Lord Lee referred to the new tourism council, as did the noble Lord, Lord Harrison. Although that has been set up at the moment with a view to developing skills and jobs, it is a start to what could become the sort of departmental mix that we need to deal with tourism in a holistic way. There needs to be joined-up government here.
To start with, though, it is right to concentrate on skills and jobs. We have heard about the massive job creation that has come from tourism, yet there is still underappreciation of travel and tourism as a career. While the country’s appreciation of cooking and the rise of the celebrity chef have created a wave of enthusiasm for catering, there is still a misconception in many places about whether the tourism and hospitality industry is the place to go for a career. In fact the World Travel and Tourism Council, which has chief executives of 100 of the world’s major tourist companies on its board, has just launched a campaign to try to improve the image of a career in that industry, and it would be excellent news if those who influence our youngsters on future careers could take a look at that and bear it in mind when advising on career choices.
I promised to mention the importance of our country’s cultural institutions. As we have heard, those coming to this country often choose to come here because of what we offer on the heritage and cultural side. A survey of people from 20 countries found that the majority of respondents came here because culture and heritage were strong influences on their choice. Culture and heritage do not come cheap, though. At the British Museum, as at many of our museums and galleries, the doors are open to all comers but the public funding to support this is, inevitably, under continuing downward pressure. I understand why; as far as I am concerned, we have to tackle the deficit and cut public expenditure. Still, we need to support our museums and galleries. That means looking to kind donors.
So I make a plea to make it easy for donors to give money to our institutions. Major philanthropists are already being hugely generous, and the museum is one of the beneficiaries, but little donations mount up too. Last year the National Funding Scheme launched a digital fundraising platform called Donate. It started with just 11 members and now there are 180. If visitors to one of these institutions want to give—if they just suddenly feel the urge—Donate enables them to do it via a mobile phone app. It is painless and very quick, just as I am going to be now.
Donate had the enthusiastic backing of the DCMS at its launch. What it needs now, as it heads towards self-sufficiency, is a little more working capital. My plea is for this to be found. I do not expect the DCMS to provide the money but it could help to find it, either from wealthy philanthropists or from putting a collection cup around among all the potential beneficiaries.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Harrison for tabling this debate today and for the compelling case that he and others have made in support of the importance of the tourism sector to our economy. I very much echo his contention that to leave Europe could only damage our opportunities to expand the tourism sector and benefit from it in future.
As we have heard, however you measure it, tourism is one of the largest industries in the UK. According to the Deloitte study, it contributes nearly £100 billion to the economy of England alone. One in 12 jobs in the UK is either directly or indirectly benefited by tourism. It is the UK’s third highest export earner, behind chemicals and financial services, and it is a growing sector, with tourism expenditure forecast to grow 3% per annum in this decade and spending by inbound visitors forecast to grow at an even faster rate. By any measure, the tourism and hospitality sectors deserve a place at the top table of Treasury and Business Ministers. They are delivering for our economy and could be delivering even more.
Yet, as has been said, you rarely hear mention of the achievements of those sectors by this Government outside of the immediate department. Like the noble Lord, Lord Lee, we welcome the establishment of the Tourism Council, but it has a big challenge to harness the energy of the many individuals and stakeholders in the sector who are brimming full of ideas and initiatives that could make even better use of our tourism appeal in future. So perhaps when the Minister responds he could provide some more information about the remit of the council and any positive outcomes which are envisaged from its creation.
Of course, the sector is also coming to terms with a 34% cut in real terms to the grants to VisitBritain and VisitEngland as well as the decision to decentralise many of the responsibilities to the local enterprise partnerships which, as my noble friend Lord Harrison pointed out, have had a rather patchy gestation and lack the authority, effectiveness and resources of the regional development boards which they replaced.
It is this regional challenge that I want to focus on in the time that I have left. This has been a recurring theme in this debate. One of the big challenges facing the tourism sector, reflected in the latest VisitBritain figures, is that of the 31 million visitors to the UK, more than half visit only London. Not only is this a missed opportunity, it is also symptomatic of a wider economic worry that all our wealth and investment is being drawn into the capital leading to an unbalanced economic recovery.
I believe that there is an onus on government to do more to support the tourism sector to attract visitors to our cities, regions and coastlines. This means more than funding another advertising campaign extolling the attractions of a particular tourist area, effective though I know they are. It requires a cross-department plan to look at the infrastructure needs of specific areas and invest accordingly. Take, for example, British seaside towns. Historically, they have been at the heart of our nation’s family holidays, but many are now in decline. This need not be inevitable. Of course family holidays are no longer restricted to the two-week family break at a seaside resort, but the scenery, the sand, the sea and the attractions are still there and could provide a focus for new types of tourism and shorter holiday breaks. Where I live in Brighton is a case in point. I was there last weekend and you could not move for visitors enjoying the sunshine and bringing with them much needed cash.
While Brighton still has its economic challenges, other resorts are faring far worse. Poor housing stock, high unemployment, anti-social behaviour and lack of modern infrastructure are holding back their development. Take Great Yarmouth as an example. Its town centre has a child deprivation rate of 49% and it is crying out for regeneration to offer hope to the 1,000 young people currently unemployed there. Instead, sadly, the Government abolished the Future Jobs Fund, which created nearly 4,000 jobs for young people in seaside towns, and abolished the Sea Change programme, which was helping to drive cultural and creative regeneration in these areas.
Places like Great Yarmouth could be providing a renaissance in beach holidays for the new generation of staycationers and inbound tourists, but they cannot be left to sort this alone. They need help, and government should be providing the strategy and the catalyst for the investment. This could include creating new job opportunities by providing a hub for entrepreneurs, revitalising local fishing communities, encouraging new craft and creative markets, tackling delays in broadband rollout to encourage new small businesses, supporting new marine conservation zones to encourage water-based attractions and, most importantly, sorting out neglected transport links.
My noble friend Lady Andrews, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and others spoke passionately about our heritage sites. Britain has a wealth of historical buildings and castles scattered right across the country, but many are in urgent need of repair and have outdated visitor centres and poor access routes. Organisations such as English Heritage, the National Trust and the Historic Houses Association have done a fantastic job, but they cannot be expected to meet all the needs of this sector, particularly when their funding is being cut. It seems obvious that we should be harnessing our unique heritage as a key driver to develop our tourism strategy outside London. We are all grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, for listing the exciting and sometimes quirky museums and events around the country that could form the basis of those attractions.
Already more than a quarter of holidays taken by staycationers include a visit to a historic site. Our aim should be to increase this number and, more importantly, market these sites as must-see destinations for the inbound tourists who currently head for London. I very much echo the views of my noble friend Lady Andrews. She will know that I very much support her passion for exploiting the natural and cultural assets of Wales. Indeed, I also have a great deal of sympathy for the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and the issues he raised about the potential landscape blight which can occur from wind farms, pylons and roads. Undoubtedly, we have to plan that infrastructure and development more sympathetically. Where is the strategy to revitalise the seaside towns, our impoverished regions and our heritage? Does the Minister agree that it is a priority to build up our visitor numbers outside London and, if so, what is the department doing to make this happen?
I also echo very much the arguments put forward by my noble friend Lady Billingham and others about the opportunities to build on our sporting achievements and reputation, and to make much more of our Olympic legacy. That should have been exploited not only in London but around the country, which was the original intention in the legacy proposal. Again, it would be useful to hear from the Minister what more is being done to develop those sporting sites around the country.
Finally, I should like to pick up on the point about skills and low pay made by several noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft. Everything depends on the next generation of young people who we want to encourage to develop careers in the tourism and hospitality sectors. Without them, we will have nothing to market to potential visitors. We will not have the skills to give the warm welcome which the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, quite rightly highlighted as essential if we are going to make our tourism a success. What dialogue is taking place between the Minister’s department and Education and BIS Ministers with regard to skills? For example, is he taking steps to ensure that the skills needed in the tourism sector will be properly provided among the new, revamped, GCSEs? Obviously we all want to ensure that GCSEs remain a quality standard, but is he concerned that the more practical, vocational skills required to be effective in this sector might be squeezed out in favour of more academic studies? Can he confirm that his department is satisfied that the skills to provide high-quality tourism experiences—not just low-paid, unskilled, zero-hours work—are a priority for the education department as part of our strategy to develop our tourism potential to the full?
A common theme of this debate is that politicians do not “get” tourism. I very much hope that the Minister will be able to reassure us on this matter and that he will be able to explain that the department does “get” tourism. I very much look forward to hearing his response.
My Lords, first, I also congratulate the noble Lord on securing this debate; it is clear from your Lordships’ experience that it has resulted in an outstanding one.
A number of questions have been asked, some in some detail. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I write to them in some detail on those that I do not come to. For some of the matters, a rather quick reply will not satisfy anyone. There are details on some of the visa issues, in particular, that are worthy of a proper and detailed response.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, will not take this amiss, but I thought that he said something about the Government and contracting the economy. I will look at Hansard, but I want to say specifically that the Government absolutely recognise that tourism is vital to the future of the UK economy. Indeed, it is central to the Government’s strategy for growth. According to the recent Deloitte report, the direct and indirect contribution of the tourism economy amounts to £127 billion, supporting more than 3 million jobs.
Turning to EU tourism, in 2012, there were 534 million tourist arrivals from within and outside Europe. That was about 52% of all international tourist arrivals globally, and around two-thirds of these arrivals were from other EU member states. The data from 2010 show that 3.4 million tourism industry enterprises employed an estimated 15.2 million people in the EU.
VisitEngland—in connection with the EU—works very closely with counterparts from across the EU through the National Tourism Board Forum, which comprises representatives from Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, France, Malta, Denmark, Austria, Montenegro and Belgium. This has led to some exciting joint campaigns, such as the Tour de Manche cycling route, which is a cycling trail that includes Normandy, Brittany, Jersey, Devon and Dorset. Furthermore, the Minister for Tourism regularly engages with her counterparts from Europe; for example, the UK hosted the annual meeting of Tourism Ministers from the G20 countries—known as the T20 summit—last year.
On jobs and skills in the sector, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, and my noble friend Lord Lee for their welcome—and I think there is a general welcome—of the tourism industry council. I will take this opportunity to explain that as best I can, but that explanation will form part of the detailed response, because obviously I want to give as much information as possible. That is a partnership between the Government and the tourism sector which will focus on improving skills—I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and other noble Lords will be pleased—increasing the quality and quantity of jobs available and boosting enterprise in the industry. The new council will be chaired jointly by the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Equalities, the Minister for Skills and Enterprise and Hilton’s president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The council will hold its inaugural meeting next month and will be made up of representatives from VisitBritain, VisitEngland, the Tourism Alliance—a body of 50 tourism industry organisations that represent 200,000 businesses of all sizes—and will include industries engaged in hospitality, entertainment, travel and accommodation. I expect action, and am looking for it. In response to my noble friend Lord Lee, I point out that representatives from other departments will be invited to attend as necessary, depending on each meeting’s agenda, and so will other relevant organisations. I specifically emphasise, as I said before, that representatives from SMEs are members of that council.
In response to my noble friend Lord Caithness, who asked what the Government seek to achieve, this is a partnership. It is about the responsibilities of government and about working with organisations and businesses to ensure that we get the best for the country and the industry. The commitment of the industry to create jobs and support young people is also highlighted by the British Hospitality Association’s initiative to “inspire the next generation”. Industry leaders have already pledged almost 6,000 new hospitality jobs, apprenticeships and work placements for young people by 2015. I particularly note what my noble friend Lord Shipley said about the importance of young people, as did other noble Lords.
The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, quite rightly mentioned apprenticeships. The Government’s apprenticeship programme provides proven benefits to both employers and apprentices. That is being achieved by trailblazers, which are models of best practice. The Prime Minister recently announced the next phase of that programme, and I am pleased to say that two of those trailblazers have been attributed to the tourism sector. Once delivered, those trailblazers will increase the quality and viability of apprenticeships with the highest standards to be attained.
The Government’s tourism strategy focuses on delivering a first-class welcome for visitors and providing a high-quality offer. Between 2011 and 2015, £100 million will be invested—50:50 matched between the public and private sector—into a marketing campaign via VisitBritain, working with the industry to market what Britain has best to offer. Over the same period, a further £65 million has been invested into the tourism sector of the GREAT campaign, for both inbound and domestic marketing. In 2014-15, we are investing more than £5 million of GREAT funding into promoting Britain to countries within the EU. Between 2011 and 2015, the GREAT and other international campaigns are expected to deliver 4.7 million extra visits from overseas and £2.3 billion in extra visitor spend. I am pleased to report that we are on track to achieve this target, with extremely encouraging figures from last year. Through VisitBritain’s growth strategy for inbound tourism, Delivering a Golden Legacy, this Government want to attract 40 million visitors a year by 2020, with a spend of £31.5 billion. This target will support more than 200,000 extra jobs across Britain.
I want to talk a bit about London. While London is a key gateway to the country, we must and do market all the wonderful destinations across the UK. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all represented on the VisitBritain board, and the GREAT campaign promotes the whole of the UK. London now draws in more than 50% of all visits and spend from overseas visitors, as noble Lords have said, and we should celebrate the fact that people want to visit what many are now calling the world’s capital. London contains many of the world-leading museums. We have heard about the British Museum and the association with it of my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft. According to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, it was the most visited of all institutions, visited 6.7 million times in 2013. However, we need a London-plus approach. This has been raised by a number of noble Lords, and I very much agree with my noble friend Lord Shipley about the opportunities that this presents—and, indeed, how could Wales have a better champion than the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews? This is very much something that VisitBritain needs to do in promoting Wales. It works hard to promote the whole of Britain overseas, which very much includes Wales. But in feeding back information from this debate, I think that her words about the glories of Wales resonate with me, and I shall definitely speak to Ministers on those points.
In the London-plus approach for overseas visitors, we wish to build on the big increases in inbound visitor numbers and spend which the rest of the UK saw in 2013. Edinburgh Castle attracted 1.4 million visits last year; then there were the cultural events surrounding Derry-Londonderry’s status as UK City of Culture. Glastonbury is now the world’s largest music festival. There is so much to visit beyond London, and for us to market. My noble friend Lord Caithness mentioned the Castle of Mey, and Capability Brown. Certainly, if I had a park associated with Capability Brown, I would be very sure to include that in my marketing. My noble friend Lord Shipley spoke about Northumberland and the great opportunities presented to us by the celebration of the glory of the landscape made by Capability Brown. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, referred to the value of culture, heritage and tourism. I was particularly struck by the huge improvement in Stonehenge, which, again, is such an important part of our heritage. My noble friend Lord Lee mentioned the numbers motivated to visit, and cited heritage. My figures show that four out of 10 leisure visitors to the UK cite heritage as the primary motivation for their visit.
I cannot resist reading in Hansard the resonant account of the journey around the museums and activities of this great country related by my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft, who also highlighted the opportunities afforded to the great city of Liverpool through the International Festival for Business. The festival is important not only for Liverpool and the people who live and work there but engenders pride in the country and shows that this is a great place to do business.
The noble Lord, Lord Harrison, mentioned agritourism and archaeology tourism. All these facets of what this country can provide constitute opportunities that we need to grasp. Music tourism accounted for a total spend of £2.1 billion last year. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, mentioned landscape. As a countryman, I must be careful that I do not wax too lyrical about the glories of the landscape. The variety of landscape which this little group of islands has is quite exceptional. In providing modern infrastructure we have a responsibility to ensure that it is sensitively built wherever possible and that local people have the opportunity to say yea or nay to it. All that is very important; we should cherish our landscape.
The noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, who is a champion of sport, mentioned sports tourism, as did my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft. I am very pleased to hold a meeting shortly with the Rugby Football Union about the World Cup next year and, of course, the Tour de France will start in Yorkshire. Therefore, we should celebrate what our country provides in this area.
The number of people crossing international borders is now more than 1 billion per annum. Although the United States and Europe remain our biggest source of visitors, by 2030 China will have 1.4 billion affluent consumers. China is a priority market and a significant part of the GREAT campaign. Furthermore, we have already seen positive results with regard to Chinese visitor numbers, whose spend has increased by 63.8% to £491.7 million, which shows the opportunities that are presented. We need, and would welcome, more of those visitors. That is why the Home Office has announced a package of measures to improve visa services for Chinese visitors, including streamlining visa applications between the UK and Schengen areas, which has already been well received. According to the Home Office, 96% of Chinese people who apply for a visa get one. Indeed, from this summer there will be a 24-hour super-priority visa. In addition, all the UK visa application centres in China are undergoing refurbishment to include the GREAT branding.
VisitBritain has also recently launched its China Welcome campaign. This partnership between VisitBritain and British tourism businesses is aimed at delivering exceptional service for Chinese visitors. This will help make Britain the destination of choice for the rapidly growing Chinese market. A number of high-profile businesses have already signed up to the programme, providing information in Mandarin, adapting their product offer, and attracting a significant number of Chinese visitors as a result.
I am conscious of what my noble friend Lord Shipley said about languages. Many institutions have sought to increase the amount of information they provide in many different languages but I will pass on those important comments as part of my message to the Tourism Minister.
A number of noble Lords mentioned air passenger duty and the decision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to eliminate the two highest rates of that duty charged on long-haul flights. This will cut tax for millions of passengers travelling to and from key markets such as China and India. I am well aware of the points that were made by my noble friend Lord Caithness, and the noble Lord, Lord Harrison, which questioned whether the duty should be cut further. All I can say is that taxation is kept under review but this income is a key revenue stream and money would have to be found from other sources if the issue were addressed in the way that the noble Lords suggested.
I should also mention VAT, which is clearly a matter for the Chancellor. Taxes in this country are regularly reviewed but the Chancellor is currently not convinced that a change in the rate from 20% to 5% is affordable.
Domestic tourism is vital and represents 80% of the sector. The first two Holidays at Home are GREAT campaigns, and other related VisitEngland activities, generated an additional spend of £380 million. We will build on that with the third Holidays at Home are GREAT campaign, which began in March.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, mentioned coastal towns and seaside resorts. They are an important part of our heritage. Many piers have sadly disappeared over the years, but they were part of my childhood when I visited the arcades on them. Since 2012, DCLG’s Coastal Communities Fund has awarded grants to 104 organisations across the UK to the value of £53.6 million. This funding is forecast to deliver 7,655 jobs and help attract around £90 million of additional funds to coastal areas, which are a vital part of the UK’s tourism offer. I hope that this will please the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, because one such grant of almost £290,000 was to the Milford Haven Port Authority in Wales. This promotes the maritime heritage of the port.
Between 2012 and 2015, VisitEngland will receive £19.8 million of regional funding through BIS for Growing Tourism Locally. VisitEngland is working with a variety of local tourism bodies seeking better links with local enterprise partnerships. I will write to your Lordships about those partnerships. I am also aware that there have been cuts in funding, which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, mentioned. Across government there have been cuts—but, importantly, marketing budgets for both our tourism boards have actually increased.
The noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, and my noble friend Lord Lee mentioned daylight hours. There is a strong feeling in government that we need consensus from Scotland and Northern Ireland if we are to take the issue forward. Particularly in this year, I hope that your Lordships will understand that.
As to the future, my noble friend Lady Seccombe rightly stressed the importance of welcome. I am pleased that the Anholt Nation Brands Index shows that Britain has improved and moved up into the top 10. We are in fourth and third spot for tourism and national brand. I very much agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews; not only do we want visitors but we want them to come back again and again.
The tourism industry is extremely competitive. We need to ensure that that is kept very much under watch. However, I very much wish all who work in the industry every success. We have so much for visitors to enjoy: the arts, creative industries, museums, music, culture, sports, historic buildings and gardens, cathedrals and churches, cities, towns, villages, shores and countryside across all parts of the United Kingdom. The Government’s actions are all designed to ensure that tourism and hospitality play their part in the nation’s prosperity and encourage many more to visit all parts of our great country.
My Lords, I note the Minister’s ambition to give fuller and more complete answers than he has given hitherto. In response to my noble friend Lady Billingham, I shall also make an effort to speak up. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Lee, who suggested that I might consider the profession of toastmaster, I would like to toast all those who contributed so interestingly and helpfully to this debate on tourism and hospitality.
I shall make two final points. I was asked by my noble friend Lady Billingham to think about sport. Yesterday I was contacted by the other Lord’s to ask whether I would note in this debate that the first test match is taking place. Lord’s then gave me the figures of the jobs associated with inward tourism because of cricket and the cricket matches we hold in this country.
My final point is to advertise a debate I hope to hold under a Question for Short Debate on the vitality of markets—not just in market towns but elsewhere throughout the country. Every year my wife and I every year plot a course not only to the art galleries we like to see around the country, but to the markets—last year it was Beverley and Leeds—that we visit on our way home. I hope that that debate will be later in the winter.
In conclusion, I thank all who contributed today. There is so much more to be said and I believe that this is the right place to say it.