John Penrose explains the Government’s tourism strategy

>>JOHN PENROSE: Well we’ve got a couple of
aims. One is to make it clear to everybody that tourism is one of the major planks of
the Government’s growth strategy. We want to try and get the economy moving again and
tourism is not only a very successful part of our economy already in its own right –
it’s often underestimated but it’s pretty important already – but it’s got huge potential
and we want to unleash that potential. Couple of ways we’re going to do it and the first
one is to take the £100 million which we’ve managed to raise by matching Government money
with private sector money and try and use that over a four-year period as an enormous
marketing fund to attract more foreign visitors to the UK from all around the rest of the
world and to use it to showcase what the UK has got to offer because we’ve got the most
amazing collection of events coming up over the course of the next three or four years.
It’s not just the Royal Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks’ time, but it’s also
the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year, followed of course by the Olympics and the Paralympics
and the Cultural Olympiad. And then after that people tend to forget that we’ve got
two different flavours of Rugby World Cup, we’ve got the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow,
we’ve got the Ryder Cup in Scotland, we’ve got all sorts of other things coming up and
that’s going to create a series of wonderful opportunities to showcase what Britain has
got to offer to the rest of the world and make sure they all know what a great place
we are to visit. So that’s going to be step one and that’s really designed to bring more
people to Britain in the first place. Step two is to just try to remind us Brits what
a great place we’ve got on our own doorstep and we tend sometimes just to forget that
or underestimate it. And the peculiar thing is that in spite all the great places we’ve
got to visit right outside our own front doors, as a country, we are the European country
which is least likely to take holidays at home and most likely to go abroad. And if
we just change that even a little bit, try and redress that balance by reminding people
of all the things that there are out there then it could be a huge opportunity for our
tourism industry. Final thing we’ve got to do is to make, or to help, our tourism industry
get even more competitive and even more skilled. They’re not bad already, they’re pretty good,
they’re doing well already as I just said, but we need to make sure they are always moving
forward, because otherwise we run the risk, like anybody, if you don’t move forward and
you stand still, you get left behind and we’ve got to stay competitive because it’s a tough
old world out there and a lot of other countries are trying to make a big push on tourism as
well.>>SANDIE DAWE: Absolutely delighted to see
the launch of this strategy really for three reasons. One is to see tourism so high up
the agenda, not just within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s agenda, but
actually to see the endorsement of the Chancellor and indeed the Prime Minister so that’s really…
that’s excellent. Second is seeing all the different issues that might impact on tourism
and tourism’s productivity and competitiveness wrapped up in one document. The issues lie,
many of them, outside the remit of DCMS, but this creates an agenda that the industry can
actually track and hold the Government to account on. And the third one is seeing our
role as Visit Britain so well reflected and endorsed in the document. Not just our role
across the international marketing of Britain but also the valuable advice and insights
that we can provide in our advisory role.>>JAMES BERESFORD: I’m James Beresford, I’m
Chief Executive of Visit England. We’re absolutely thrilled at Visit England that the minister
today has launched a new policy cross-Government for tourism. Getting a cross-Government policy
for tourism in place means that the whole issue of tourism is further up the agenda
and will be taken seriously right across Government and that is very important for our sector.
We need tourism to be taken seriously across Government. Tourism in England is worth £97
billion per annum and we have some ambitious growth targets. It’s one of the few industries
that can grow in the future. It can generate jobs and income and quality of life to this
country so it’s very important that tourism is taken seriously. We have our own strategic
framework for tourism, which we believe sits nicely with the Government policy and should
deliver real growth in future.>>JOHN PENROSE: We’ve got bank holidays that
come in a big rush, we’ve got Easter which is relatively late, it’s in late April this
year, and then we’ve got the first May bank holiday and then we’ve got the second May
bank holiday and it’s all over in about six weeks flat. And some people are saying: “Well
look, hang on a minute, why have them all then? Why don’t we space them out more regularly
throughout the year?” And so what we’re suggesting is that we’d like to get people’s opinions
on, if we take the first May bank holiday and either move it a bit earlier, to St George’s
Day so we can have an English patron saint’s day along the lines of St Andrew’s Day in
Scotland or St Patrick’s Day in Ireland, give us all something to be proud of, bit of a
chance to have a proper celebration. Or alternatively, take that same bank holiday in early May and
instead of moving it to St George’s Day earlier in the year, move it later, move it to the
October half term holiday. And there that might help because at the moment there’s nothing
from the end of August when everybody starts to go back to the school all the way through
to Christmas, which is a bit of a long old slog. If we put a bank holiday round about
Trafalgar Day or call it UK Day if you want, again we can have a big national holiday,
something to be proud of, and it just breaks the year up a bit. From the tourism industry’s
point of view, it’s a huge boon too because not only does it give us an extra national
celebration, but it also extends the tourism season either earlier in the year or later
and anything that helps us prolong the season, make us more of an all-year-round destination
country has got to be a good thing.

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