UK Government's Tourism Sector Deal falls short of what's required

Tourism Sector Deal Shadow DCMS Team Response:

Today the Government announced their much-delayed Tourism Sector Deal which though welcome falls short of what is required.

Research by the Office for National Statistics shows that the tourism sector is heavily reliant on employees from other EU countries. In the UK economy as a whole, 7% of employees are from the EU whereas in the two biggest tourism industries, food and beverage service and accommodation services the proportion is far higher, at 12% and 19% respectively.  In the Sector Deal the Government have failed to acknowledge and plan for the impact of the end of freedom of movement on employment in the tourism sector.

Labour welcomes the commitment in the sector deal to shift perceptions about jobs in the tourism and hospitality industry. The introduction of the T levels in Cultural Heritage and Visitor Attractions, and Catering will go some way towards supporting workers in the tourism industry in building and developing their careers. The industry commitment to provide 30,000 new apprenticeship starts every year by 2025 shows the hard work the industry is putting in in order to support the tourism industry in the UK.

The introduction of Tourism Zones recognises the key role Local Authorities play in creating successful Tourism destinations but will not replace the need for restoring Local Government finances which have been hit so hard by austerity.

There is no recognition of the confusing landscape of destination management and marketing organisations (DMOs) in this deal. Regional Development Agencies, established by Labour and abolished by the coalition government, invested heavily and successfully in tourism product and promotion across England, creating jobs, strengthening communities and spreading the economic benefits of both inbound and domestic tourism. Now we have hundreds of often tiny DMOs working on a shoestring and directly competing with their next-door neighbours.

The lack of a national DMO strategy and the failure of this Government to require Local Economic Partnerships to take tourism seriously, and invest accordingly, undermines this deal and renders much of it academic.

The Tourism Sector Deal completely fails to address the impact of devastating Government cuts to Local Authority budgets over the past decade. The ambition behind ‘Tourism Zones’ is admirable but without the funding to back it up this will simply heap increased pressure on already severely stretched Local Authority budgets.

The deal also takes no account of and does not mention something that businesses up and down the country have been telling us at our tourism round-tables. Business rates increases have stifled the growth of many SMEs and the Government cannot claim to want to see SMEs grow - and that they are the backbone of the tourism economy – without addressing this.

Tourism should be accessible to everyone and the focus in the Tourism Sector Deal on ensuring accessible transport for everyone regardless of their health conditions or access requirements is a welcome step. The Government’s intention to make the UK the most accessible destination in Europe by 2025 is welcome as is the target of increasing the number of inbound visitors with a disability by 33% by 2025, but it needs to be clear how this will be achieved.  More also needs to be done to enable poorer families to have a holiday in the UK.

In the Sector Deal, the Government have said that they intend to introduce an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme that EU citizens will need to apply for instead of a visa to come to the UK. However, the sector deal fails to say how much an ETA will cost and the Government have not included any analysis of the effect of the increased cost travelling to the UK will have on visitor numbers.

Shadow Arts and Culture Minister, Kevin Brennan MP said:
“The delayed tourism sector deal announced today is a partial step forward in supporting the vital tourism industry in this country but does not address the full scale of the challenge ahead especially in light of Brexit.

“They have not properly assessed the impact of introducing a charge for European Union visitors who want to travel to the UK and they have also failed to properly recognise the reliance of the Tourism industry on workers from the EU.

“Moreover, the failure to address the impact of cuts to Local Authorities makes it clear that more needs to be done to protect and support the Tourism industry in the UK for years to come.

“Neither is there a commitment to develop social tourism for those who cannot afford a holiday or a proper look at how more resources could be raised locally to support events and tourist infrastructure.”