Tourism – Election Whisper (07.05.15)
Why, as Britain goes to the polls today, does Travel and Tourism not feature politically?
Politicians appear to be unaware that tourism is a golden goose. Political short-termism and a fragmented and under-represented Travel and Tourism industry mean that this important source of revenue is almost ignored.
Travel and Tourism should be an election issue. Politicians appear unable to grasp its true significance, preferring to take the revenue generated for granted, while paying lip service in return. In simple terms, the industry, while vibrant and at the forefront of modern-day commerce, is being vastly under-rated, under-utilised and under-supported.
So weak is the industry’s clout that tourism-related policies, not mentioned in any of the previous party manifestos, still appear relatively featureless across all party programmes.
I cannot remember any of our election trail politicians commenting on a single important tourism issue. Aside from the lack of focus, debate and financial planning on the major issues – such as UK airport expansion, HS2 Train Link and demotion of Tourism to below Westminster’s Sports and Equalities portfolio – there appears to have been little reference to how best to maximise on such a crucial economy-boosting industry. The lack of political engagement is obvious: none of the political parties are recommending a specific Minister of Tourism post.
This is all the more remarkable when you consider that the tourism industry has been at the forefront of the UK’s post-2008 financial crisis recovery. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that tourism businesses have provided almost a third of all additional jobs from 2010-2013. Rural areas such as Warwickshire and Shropshire benefit from tourism which provides up to 9% of local economies. Visit Britain’s research reports that tourism-related employment now accounts for nearly 10% of the national workforce.
Economically tourism is the country’s fifth largest earner, contributing 9% of GDP, or £127bn. This is a larger contribution than either the pharmaceutical or automotive industries.
Domestic tourism revenue has increased by 11% over the past three years to £78bn. These are impressive figures when you consider that manufacturing has a comparative growth rate of 3%. The general service-sector is up 6%.
Outbound tourism continues to enhance Britain’s international standing both politically and economically. This in turn benefits our society, which is regarded as one of the world’s most racially tolerant in the world, with a continued international visitor focus firmly set on visiting Britain. Indeed the UK tourism industry is well placed as international traveller numbers continue to grow 4% a year, mainly due to expanding traveller numbers from BRIC countries.
Where is the debate?
Do our politicians appreciate the potential impact of such an evolving international tourism market?
How do they plan to assist the industry in engaging global tourism demand, set to increase 66% by 2030? Have our politicians addressed the fact that the outbound Chinese tourism industry alone reached 100m in 2014? This has happened six years earlier than predicted by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
Do the manifesto scribes realise that the outgoing coalition government only spent £27m on promoting the domestic tourism industry through the ‘Britain is GREAT’ campaign?
Are voters in ‘problem unemployment’ regions (with up to 39% of employees under the age of 30) aware of tourism’s potential? Not least as starting figures over the past three years have seen 90,000 tourism jobs created in rural, urban and seaside areas?
How many senior politicians know that the World Economic Forum ranks the UK’s tourism Industry as the fifth most competitive in the world? Do they realise how important that is when trying to attract investment?
What plans, promises and potential views do our politicians offer when it comes to engaging tourism to assist in increasing government revenue, drive regional growth, boosting export earnings, drive up tourism employment and promote UK Plc?
For the moment, as we vote for change, we do not know what they think. They don’t appear to be interested enough to comment, act or maximise on the industry’s true worth.