In the first of his quarterly columns for TravelGBI, new tourism minister Michael Ellis looks at how a thriving tourism industry boosts UK plc.
Increasing international tourism to the UK is not only good for individual businesses, but for the whole country.
Our thriving industry benefits every community in the UK, supports thousands of jobs and contributes £66 billion to our economy every year.
My priority as tourism minister is to work with the sector to build on this success and cement the UK’s position as one of the world’s pre-eminent tourism destinations.
We are building from a very strong base.
Between January and October last year, the UK received a record-breaking 33 million international visits – up 5% on the previous year.
The huge growth in Chinese tourism to the UK is a particular success story.
Visa figures from 2017 show that the numbers of Chinese visitors have soared by 150% since 2012.
And the latest statistics from EuroStat – a directorate-general of the European Commission – show that 31% of tourism nights spent by Chinese residents in the European Union are now in the UK.
We are enjoying a golden era in UK-China relations and it is right that the sector capitalises on this to attract more business and leisure tourists.
The number of flights between our two nations is on the rise, including direct routes between Beijing to Manchester, making it easier for people to enjoy more of the UK.
Liverpool World Museum recently welcomed the ancient Terracotta Warriors, the first time they have been displayed in the UK outside of London.
This blockbuster exhibition, China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors, will attract huge numbers of tourists to the region and showcase Liverpool and the north on an international stage.
We are also working to expand newer markets.
In February, Norwegian launched a direct route between London Gatwick and Buenos Aires, which will undoubtedly boost tourism between Argentina and the UK and the number of people from Argentina travelling to our shores.
I will work with the sector and my colleagues across Whitehall to ensure that Britain remains a top destination for overseas visitors – making sure that we remain a world-leader for culture, sport and the creative industries.
Trade events such as ExploreGB in Newcastle last month are hugely important opportunities to really show the world what we have to offer and enables buyers of British products from across the globe to see the high quality of our attractions and assets.
Campaigns such as English Tourism Week and VisitBritain’s ‘I Travel For…’ are also an excellent way to raise the profile of incredible attractions across the country, targeting key markets including Australia, France, Germany, the US, China, the Gulf States and India.
I am working closely with the industry on the proposed Tourism Sector Deal, which provides a clear framework to strengthen our tourism offer, through improving skills in the sector, extending the tourism season and strengthening connectivity.
Tourism is a globally competitive business and we must continue to grow and innovate to stay ahead of our rivals.
I look forward to working with all of you over the coming months to achieve our common aim – to grow the industry in a sustainable way that benefits all our regions and nations.