The strategy outlined by Tourism Minister John Penrose today (4 March) includes “repairing market failure” by changing the tourist boards “to become smaller, highly focused industry-led partnerships between tourism firms and government.”
The Government says that because of the tourism sector’s high proportion of SMEs, and “free-riding” by firms which benefit from shared marketing campaigns that they haven’t participated in, there’s a “high level of market failure” and the industry has been too dependent on public funds for one “of its size and importance.”
It adds: “The result is an industry where destinations are not always marketed effectively, and where longer-term planning and investment is made harder by the risk that public funding priorities may change at short notice.”
The overhaul of bodies VisitBritain and Visit England began several months ago after a funding cut and last month the former revealed it would cut head count by up to 30%.
The tourism strategy builds on the already announced four year marketing plan designed to attract an extra four million overseas visitors over the period. It’s hoped this increase will bring in an extra £2bn worth of visitor spend and there will be a huge focus on the London 2012 Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
The policy paper includes plans to create a task force to cut red tape that is holding the industry back. There will be a drive to broaden the tourism offer by promoting alternative destinations which match London and to make it easier to visit by simpler and faster access to tourist visa.
The body will consult whether to lengthen the tourism season by moving the May Day bank holiday to create a new St George’s day holiday in April in England and St David’s Day in Wales, or a Trafalgar Day bank holiday in autumn half term.
The report also commits to helping the industry prepare for changes in technology so information can be provided through smartphone apps.
Extra apprenticeship and courses will be developed to improve staff skills in the sector.
Penrose adds: “The strategy paper is … a simple blueprint of practical ideas that show what can be done when government departments and agencies work together towards a common goal.”
James Berresford, VisitEngland’s chief executive says: “A dedicated Government Tourism Policy for this country is a great step in the right direction. We welcome the mandate the Policy gives VisitEngland and its endorsement of our current strategy and we look forward to working with the Tourism Minister and the industry in a united partnership to grow tourism and ensure the success of one of the UK’s most important and dynamic industries.”