VisitBritain has been asked to draw together a priority list of key areas on which the UK Government could take effective action to benefit the visitor economy during the economic downturn.Suggestions to [email protected], received by 19 January, will be provided to Tourism Minister Barbara Follett. VisitBritain’s stakeholder event on 11 February will offer the first opportunity for the industry to hear the Minister’s response as well as launch the VisitBritain strategy and the full version of the British Tourism Framework Review.
The action came following Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s appearance at a National Tourism Summit in Liverpool last Thursday, at which he expressed his intent to support the tourism industry. The event also heard Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Andy Burnham promise to consider the need for greater public investment and acknowledge that the visitor economy is “important for the people of this country because it provides jobs”. The Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined the Secretary of State and Tourism Minister in recognising tourism as a growth industry, well placed through its creativity and innovation to cement its position as a global success story.
Mr Burnham said that the visitor economy “is important for the country, for UK plc and its image overseas, but it is important too for the people of this country because it provides the flexible jobs, the entry point jobs back into work that people need.” He recognised the value of supporting the industry during the economic downturn and, following a year of preparation and consultation for the Review, argued for a year of action in 2009.
Christopher Rodrigues, executive chairman of national tourism agency VisitBritain, who chaired the Summit, says: “This was a high profile opportunity at which the tourism industry pressed home the economic importance of tourism, the opportunities and challenges in a global recession, and the need for Government investment. The Prime Minister, Secretary of State and Tourism Minister left Liverpool totally convinced that tourism is vital in bringing millions of people to visit, watch - and crucially spend money at - cultural and sporting attractions and occasions.
“However, as international travellers demand the highest quality and service for their hard-earned cash, we have to get the message out that Britain offers great value for money right now. It is why we will continue to argue the case for additional government funding for a value campaign that can begin now.”
The Prime Minister pointed to tourism’s huge opportunity and praised “this great industry, millions of jobs depend on it, it creates a huge amount of wealth for our country. I believe that with the innovative thinking that you are all involved in, this can be an even greater industry in the future.”
The audience of public and private-sector tourism, hospitality and cultural organisations included the Historic Houses Association, British Hospitality Association, Tourism Alliance, Tourism for All, Holiday Cottages Group, Hoseasons, Liverpool John Lennon Airport, the Museum, Libraries and Archives Council, Radisson Edwardian Hotels, Travelodge and the UK Film Council as well as regional development agencies, the Local Government Association and Sport England. Many gave examples of how their businesses were being impacted by the economic downturn and how Government could support the industry.
Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport acknowledged that there is a feeling that the government does not “give enough attention and enough focus to this important industry”, continuing that he wanted to address that issue head on and give the clearest possible signal that the government wanted to work with the industry over the course of the year to ensure that it gets through these difficult times.