Comment: The government is committed to supporting our domestic travel industry

Tourism minister Julia Lopez says English Tourism Week offers an opportunity to celebrate a vibrant sector

There’s no better time than English Tourism Week to celebrate the work that goes into showcasing this mighty country to the world.

England offers some of the most iconic places on the planet to visit – with the natural beauty of the Lake District and fascinating heritage of Bath among tourist favourites in recent years, according to VisitBritain.

The numbers speak for themselves. Our tourism sector employs millions of people across the UK, including many readers of Travel Weekly. In 2022, more than £88 billion was spent on tourism in England including hotels, attractions, entertainment and hospitality. That year, Brits took 107 million overnight trips in England and spent £27.6 billion during them. On top of that, we welcomed 27.8 million international visitors.

This week’s theme is about supporting tourism as the heart of our communities, recognising that up and down the country, tourism businesses, travel agents and tour operators shine a light on the best bits of where we live, while supporting jobs and boosting local economies.

Every holiday, staycation and day trip supports the sector, which is why the work this industry does is so important, helping millions of people explore all that our amazing country has to offer.

Positive signs

Of course, recent times haven’t been without challenges. But as tourism turns its attention from pandemic recovery to future growth, there are positive signs. International visitors to the UK are almost back to pre-pandemic levels – according to VisitBritain estimates, numbers in 2023 were at 92% of their 2019 levels. So this week is also about acknowledging the sector’s determination and resilience, and reinforcing what we’re doing in government to support it.

We know how much our retail and travel industries contribute to the economy, which is why we’ve slashed business rates bills by 75%. At the Spring Budget, the Chancellor announced a 2p cut to National Insurance, saving the average worker around £900 a year. Car drivers will save money as the cut and freeze to fuel duty is maintained until March 2025, helping those choosing staycations over going abroad. And pubs will benefit from a further freeze to alcohol duty until February 2025 – saving consumers money on their favourite tipple.

The visitor economy is built on small businesses – there were more than 200,000 in the sector in 2022. That’s why we have a plan for SMEs, our £4.3 billion Help to Grow campaign, which provides smaller companies with the resources and support they need to thrive, including business rates relief.

Through the £4.8 billion Levelling Up Fund, we are investing in projects that benefit English tourism, such as Eden Project Morecambe in Lancashire – a landmark attraction for the northwest which will host exhibitions, live music, art and more – and the development of Portsmouth International Port to help manage increasing visitor numbers.

We will also soon launch a fund to support the protection of our coastal heritage – including lidos, piers and esplanades – to ensure these beloved assets are preserved for the benefit of both their local communities and visitors.

Tourism Recovery Plan

Elsewhere, through our Tourism Recovery Plan, we’ve been reforming tourism boards – known as Destination Management Organisations – across England, to help them attract more visitors, major events and investment to the UK.

To do this, we’re rolling out a scheme to accredit new Local Visitor Economy Partnerships, which will help businesses work better together to market their area and help travellers plan their trips. Thirty have been accredited so far – and they’re already delivering results.

Last year my department published a consultation on the design of a registration scheme for short-term let properties in England, to help local authorities understand how many short-term lets are in their area and the impacts on their communities.

We announced last month that this will be a national mandatory scheme, and we’ll publish a full consultation response later this year, setting out the timeline for implementation of the register, and details on the legislative process that will bring it to life. This will help us provide the best tourist accommodation possible and support local economies, while better dealing with the challenges that can arise from a proliferation of short-term lets in tourist hotspots.

None of this would be possible without the brilliant people who work in domestic tourism. We’re committed to developing the talent pipeline, so we’ve been working with the Hospitality and Tourism Skills Board to develop innovative new recruitment campaigns and develop our training offer, to ensure we have the right people with the right skills to help grow the sector further.

Tourism is a crucial part of what makes England so universally loved and we want to keep it that way. If we continue on this path I have no doubt we can retain our status as one of the top visitor destinations in the world.

Go to Source...