The government has signalled its intent to deliver a “landmark sector deal” for the UK tourism industry to attract more domestic and overseas visitors.
Speaking today (November 27) to the Tourism Industry Council – made up of leading members of the tourism industry and government – the culture secretary Jeremy Wright said the government will begin negotiations with the sector on an “ambitious Industrial Strategy sector deal that will benefit the whole country”.
He called upon the industry to respond with a “renewed commitment to promote its offer throughout the year, not just in the peak summer months”, and increase high-quality, well-paid jobs.
The sector has been asked to look at the key themes of making tourism and hospitality a career for life; making the UK the most accessible tourism industry in the world; sharing industry data to identify growth opportunities in new and emerging markets; and increasing accommodation capacity.
The announcement follows an initial proposal submitted by tourism industry leaders, led by Steve Ridgway (pictured), chair of the British Tourist Authority – the body that runs VisitBritain and VisitEngland.
It also marks one year since the government launched its Industrial Strategy, which aims to boost productivity by backing businesses.
Wright said: “The tourism industry is one of the UK’s most successful exports. Every time a leisure or business traveller chooses to visit, it brings investment in our economy and supports jobs across the country. But we are in a competitive global market and we need to be ambitious to maintain the fantastic growth we have seen in recent years.
“I want to make sure that we continue to attract visitors to all parts of the UK throughout the year, who are welcomed by a highly-trained and highly-motivated workforce.
“A Sector Deal is a way to deliver this, and the industry have put forward some strong ideas to government. We are ready to formally negotiate on a deal which can boost productivity in this crucial sector.
“I want to achieve the best deal possible for tourism and know that the industry will respond with renewed energy to achieve this.”
Ridgway added: “Tourism is an economic powerhouse, a growing industry with huge potential to scale up productivity, so it is very welcome news that an official negotiation for a sector deal has today been confirmed by the UK government.
“Securing this deal will be a game-changer for the industry, spelling a step-change in how we underpin the success of tourism for a generation, fixing issues from skills and productivity to extending the season year-round and building stronger tourism destinations up and down the country.
“And it will be a game-changer for the economy with a sector deal growing the value of the industry and increasing employment in tourism.
“One of the UK’s most valuable export industries, tourism needs no trade deals to attract overseas investment.
“It is also a fiercely competitive global industry and a sector deal moves tourism right up the UK government’s agenda as a priority for future economic planning, ensuring we continue to compete as a world-class destination for all visitors.”
The culture secretary also said the tourism industry should use the sector deal negotiations as an opportunity to deliver more collaborative data sharing with VisitBritain, around visitor figures, behaviours and audience analysis.
UK tourism is worth more than £66 billion a year to the economy and the sector employs 1.6 million people.
A record-breaking 39.2 million visits were made by overseas tourists to the UK in 2017, with the latest domestic tourism figures showing that residents across Great Britain took a total of 120.7 million overnight visits to destinations in England, Scotland and Wales in 2017.
Six sector deals between government and industry have been published over the past year – from construction and automotive, to nuclear and the creative industries, including £1.9 billion of investment in life sciences and £1 billion for artificial intelligence.
A tweet by UKinbound said: “This is very welcome news from @DCMS. UKinbound was a key partner in development of the Deal & we stand ready to help deliver the best outcomes for our fantastic #tourism industry.”
The new chief executive of the inbound tourism association, Joss Croft, added a tweet saying: “Excellent news – with many thanks to all the industry and @Michael_Ellis1, @DCMS_SecOfState and @dcms colleagues. More to do but great news.”
Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive, commented: “We are delighted that a sector deal has been agreed in principle. Securing a sector deal for hospitality has been a priority for UKHospitality and we have worked very hard to achieve it.
“The tourism and hospitality sectors are closely linked, with over 80% of tourism jobs within hospitality, so this will have a positive impact on our ability to recruit and retain the workforce we need.
“A supportive sector deal will provide us with incredibly useful support to enhance the skills and training that hospitality already provides.
“The positive work that we do, and the future initiatives we wish to undertake with the help of the sector deal does, however, rely on the sector being able to access sufficient labour, at a time when we have virtual full employment, and any future immigration policy will need to reflect that need.”
Bernard Donoghue, director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, commented on Twitter: “I & @alva_uk warmly welcome this announcement; the #tourism sector has spent a long time constructing our side of the deal & look forward to its sign-off & implementation. Great credit to @Michael_Ellis1 @DCMS_SecOfState @beisgovuk #SteveRidgeway of @VisitBritainBiz & @DCMS team.”
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, tweeted: “A Sector Deal for tourism, great to see confidence expressed in our sector; pubs third of the list for overseas visitors in the UK. Concentration on skills, making tourism & hospitality a career for life vital in a post-Brexit era. Very grateful.”