By Jeremy Hunt MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
At a time when we are desperately trying to rebalance the British economy away from financial services, we need to relook at sectors like tourism that have for too long been Cinderella industries under governments of all colours. Here are some reasons:
- Because by definition tourism cannot be outsourced or "offshored," every pound invested in tourism is a pound that continues to create jobs and prosperity for Brits for years to come.
- We have a huge competitive advantage. Despite appalling neglect, Britain is the sixth most visited country on the planet (and London the most visited city). Who else can compete with Shakespeare, the Edinburgh Festival, the West End, our castles, stately homes and countryside?
- Tourism is worth £114 bn to the British economy, employing 2 million people, mainly in small hotels, B & B, pubs and restaurants. We should support small family businesses.
A future Conservative government will aim to transform our tourism industry. Under the leadership of Tobias Ellwood, our Shadow Tourism Minister, we are today announcing three things to help revitalise this industry.
- Firstly we will simplify the morass of complicated structures charged with marketing tourism (not least through our abolition of Regional Development Authorities).
- Secondly we will restore financial incentives to local authorities so that they benefit financially by attracting visitors to their areas, by allowing them to keep any increase in business rates receipts that they generate for six years.
- And finally we will help tourism businesses to survive the recession through schemes George Osborne has announced to increase the flow of credit to the economy such as our National Loan Guarantee Scheme.
A recent report by Deloittes said that if we persuaded just 10% of the expected growth in international tourism between now and 2012 to holiday in the UK it would create 114,000 jobs and an additional £19bn for the British economy. We will never stop people wanting to go abroad (nor should we). But a holiday in Britain should at least be one of the options people consider. There is so much potential in tourism - it's time we created the conditions to allow it to flourish.