Michael Ellis: Tourism is of huge importance to our economy and Britain’s place in the world
Travel is good for our understanding of each other, it is good for our local economies, and it is something the UK will absolutely continue to support, writes Michael Ellis
Tourism is creating jobs and boosting economic growth in towns and cities across the UK.
The sector is now worth more than £67bn a year and there are few communities that do not benefit from domestic and overseas visitors. In the coming years, its importance to the nation will only continue to grow.
That is why it is such great news that we are working on an ambitious Tourism Sector Deal. This will not only benefit the industry, but the whole country.
International tourism is a crowded marketplace and it is vital that we retain our competitive edge. Working with the sector, we want to make tourism and hospitality a genuine career for life, and the UK the most accessible tourism industry in the world. Through better sharing of industry data, we also want to identify growth opportunities in new and emerging markets and for the sector to show how it will increase accommodation capacity throughout the UK.
If we can reach the right deal with industry, this could be an important tool for attracting more domestic and overseas visitors, and help to drive major economic growth that would benefit the whole country.
Since I became Minister for Tourism, I have travelled the country to see first-hand the innovative itineraries and experiences that make the UK such an attractive place to visit.
I’ve seen it in Devon and Cornwall, where I recently announced an additional £250,000 towards the Mayflower 400 commemorations; in Newcastle and Gateshead where the Great Exhibition of the North attracted more than a million visitors, in Belfast where I saw excellent work to boost the local tourism industry and in Edinburgh, which welcomes the world to its Festivals and Royal Tattoo every year.
Last month London’s ExCeL hosted the World Travel Market. It is the most significant annual tourism event in the UK, with deals worth almost £3bn estimated to have been signed. It was a great opportunity to show buyers that our destinations, products and services are worth investing in, and that the UK is, and will continue to be, fully open for business.
Our forthcoming withdrawal from the European Union is not going to change that.
We are absolutely committed to maintaining a positive relationship with EU member states and the wider world. After all, Europe benefits from access to the UK tourism market too. In 2017, approximately 54 million UK residents visited destinations in the European Union. In return, EU nationals accounted for 65% of inbound visits to the UK.
I reinforced that message during my time at the World Travel Market when I joined a ministerial summit, attended by 52 other countries, and a World Travel and Tourism Council roundtable held at 10 Downing Street with international Chief Executives who invest heavily in UK tourism.
The message to the tourism sector is clear – we are absolutely committed to helping the industry grow in the coming years. This was reiterated in the Budget, where the Chancellor announced that millions more travellers from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States will be able to use ePassport gates as they arrive at 14 airports in the UK from next summer. As of this week, Singapore and South Korea have been added to this list too. This is all part of our ambitious work to improve the welcome to passengers as they enter the UK through busy airports such as Heathrow, while of course maintaining border security.
The Government’s £40m Discover England Fund is another example of how we are supporting the industry around the UK, particularly outside London. Through this fund we are helping to develop exciting new itineraries to strengthen tourism outside the capital and encourage more people to explore the beautiful sites that the whole of England has to offer.