Brandon Lewis: Why tourism matters to the British economy
On the theme of patriotic renewal, already this week we have featured Frank Field MP writing about the teaching of British history and Jeremy Hunt MP writing that Sport is a powerful part of national identity and pride.
With summer holidays nearing an end and as we look towards the autumn it is a good time to remind people how important tourism is to many local economy’s as well as for the wider UK economy.
In Great Yarmouth, tourism brings over £400 million into the local economy and is the largest employer in Norfolk. Tourism is the fifth largest industry in the UK and we are the sixth most visited country in the world.
Even in the midst of a recession, there are still enormous opportunities for the tourism sector. In the current economic climate, more of us are thinking of, or have been, vacationing in the UK. With my family, I have spent the summer in the UK enjoying the many attractions that Great Yarmouth and Norfolk have to offer.
On a recent visit to Great Yarmouth, Tobias Ellwood MP outlined Conservative plans to give extra powers to local authorities to work more closely with the tourism industry and provide practical help and support. The funding that currently is filtered through a whole range of bodies, including Regional Development Agencies, will instead be given directly to the industry. In addition, local councils will gain more powers to protect, develop and support tourism.
To move forward, those in the tourist industry need to ask themselves tough questions about branding, promotional strategies and customer service. In Great Yarmouth, we are already working hard to repackage the area as a modern first class destination for the whole family. Recent anecdotal evidence of increased day visitors, as well as holidaymakers, suggests this strategy is beginning to work.
Yet our coastal resorts are hampered by years of wilful neglect by a Labour government that has allowed their core infrastructure to wither. It is vital that these towns receive support for regeneration and promotion.
For example, in Great Yarmouth we have a tired neglected train station requiring major renovation to make it an attractive welcome point for visitors. We also need improvements to an outdated road network that cannot cope with increased visitor numbers. Despite a local Labour MP, the Government continues to ignore these problems, even walking away from a crumbling coast that has so much to offer to tourists.
Luckily, we have a Conservative County and Borough Council, working together with our MEPs to secure funding for major seafront regeneration works. This has made Great Yarmouth a revelation to any new visitor, or retuning visitor who remembers its older neglected past under the previous Labour council.
At the General Election, our coastal communities will have an opportunity to elect a government that supports investment in our tourist areas and recognises that the industry is vital in making these towns vibrant and attractive places to live, work and visit. We have a real opportunity to develop further one of Britain’s largest and most exciting industries. One that gives us a chance to raise a smile in the sun!
Enjoy what remains of the summer and if you have not yet taken your break, come and join us by the seaside in Great Yarmouth!