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Volume 616: debated on Thursday 3 November 2016

3. What assessment she has made of trends in the level of tourism to the UK over the next five years. (907004)

Together with VisitBritain, we actively monitor inbound tourism trends to the UK. The latest figures predict a 27% growth in tourism visits between 2015 and 2020. International tourism has had a very strong summer, with August setting a new inbound record for that month with 3.8 million visits—up 2% on the same month last year—and July having the highest ever figure for that month.

Wales has seen the biggest rise in overseas visitors to the UK in 2016, and it is the only part of the UK to feature in the “Lonely Planet” guide’s list of the best places to visit in 2017. Hopefully, there will be many more. Does the Minister appreciate that there is great uncertainty in the sector over what Brexit will mean in practice? This means that we need Ministers to listen hard, have a plan and work closely with the Welsh Government to ensure that Welsh tourism goes from strength to strength.

The hon. Lady is right: the number of international visitors to Wales is up 15% and the figure for domestic visitors is 4%. That is a tribute to the hard work of VisitWales and VisitBritain. With the “Lonely Planet” guide placing north Wales in its top places to visit and with the Champions League final being played in Cardiff in June, things can only get better next year. I can reassure the hon. Lady that I meet Ministers from all the devolved Administrations regularly, and that we want to work closely to ensure that more people come to Britain, and that means all parts of Britain, and Wales.

For the first time for 12 years, Visit Isle of Wight will be at the World Travel Market, which takes place next week. Will the Minister pay a visit to the stand to show her support for tourism beyond London and, in particular, on my island?

My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the Secretary of State will be visiting the World Travel Market next week, and I am sure that if she has time she will pop by and visit the Isle of Wight’s stand.

What a fortunate and apparently prosperous fellow the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) is! We are always pleased to get a bit of additional information.

The “Lonely Planet” guide must be in a galaxy far, far away if it does not mention Yorkshire. We in Yorkshire demand a greater share of all the people who come here. Too many tourists come to London but do not go beyond it. When are we going to get the balance right?

Visits to Yorkshire are in good health. One of the Government’s ambitions under the tourism action plan is to ensure that people get out of London and visit the rest of the country, and we are supporting that with the £40 million Discover England fund. I encourage the Yorkshire tourism industry to see whether it can apply for additional funds.

Like most of the sector, the Cornish tourist industry enjoyed a bumper summer, but there is still a degree of uncertainty about the impact on the industry of leaving the EU. What conversations has the Minister had with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to ensure that the voice of the tourist industry is heard in the negotiations?

Cornwall has had many of my tourism pounds over the past few years. I reassure my hon. Friend and the whole House that we regularly meet the tourism industry as a whole. We have discussed Brexit issues at significant length and continue to do so. We have round tables and the Tourism Industry Council, and there are many other forums at which such issues are discussed. We are working hard to ensure that the industry’s concerns are represented.

The figures alluded to by the Minister, not least those for Wales, are welcome, but what assessment has she made of the further impact on the industry of the reduction in VAT on tourism and visitor attractions?

The Department and I are sympathetic towards cutting VAT on attractions and accommodation. However, the industry needs to make that argument to the Treasury, not to us.

Sadly, I do not own an island, but I do live in the glorious Ribble Valley. The falling pound should mean that far more foreign tourists look favourably at the United Kingdom. The Crown jewels may be in the Tower of London, but the real crown jewels are in the UK’s regions, whether Yorkshire, Wales or the Isle of Wight. What more can be done to attract tourism away from London and into the regions?

As I said earlier, we are working hard to ensure that we get visitors out of London and into the regions. I encourage my hon. Friend and his local destination organisation to apply for Discover England funding to ensure that we can attract visitors to all parts of the country, including Lancashire and his constituency, where one can purchase the finest sticky toffee pudding I have ever had.