Making British tourism work for everyone

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Suppose you could create more jobs for young people and give them a springboard to a satisfying career. Suppose you could spread wealth all around Britain, especially in left behind regions. Suppose you could attract more money from overseas, just when the Conservatives are trying to barricade Britain.

In Bournemouth, you have the opportunity to endorse a blueprint to do just that. Sitting behind the motion Open Britain – policies to support the UK tourism industry is a detailed ‘spokesperson’s paper’, with a whole set of proposals to give tourism the attention in government that it deserves.

The critical value of the tourism industry to the UK economy is beyond dispute. It comprises 250,000 businesses, provides jobs for 3.1m people (10% of the workforce), and contributes around £127bn each year to the economy. International visitors spend £24.5bn annually in the UK, and generate a further £7bn in tax.

But we want to see the industry benefit people in the whole country, not just a balance sheet in the Treasury. The paper proposes schemes which are central to a liberal tradition of giving everyone – not just those who get a great start in lives – the hand up they need. There are two ways, in particular, that we want to see government work with international businesses in the hospitality industry.

First, to offer opportunities to those in low-skilled work to earn placements abroad, widening their experience and offering the chance to learn a new language. If you’re working in an access-level catering and hospitality job for one of the big chains in Blackpool, today, why shouldn’t you have the chance to work in one of their branches in, Barcelona, tomorrow? Secondly, we want to encourage partnerships between businesses in the fast food industry and those in premier catering, giving young people new skills as chefs, event managers and more.

Along similar lines, we want to shed the light of day on a wealth of exhibits from London’s museums and galleries which are presently locked away in their dusty archives. These should clearly be loaned to scores of regional museums and galleries, breathing new life into the tourism industry all round Britain, and putting gems of the country’s art and heritage on the doorstep of schools everywhere.

While tourism is the lifeblood of so many local economies, it does come with challenges. In particular, short-term lets can undercut the highly regulated B&B and hotel sector, while also reducing the stock of housing available for rent to local people. Open Britain therefore proposes to bring the regulation of the whole accommodation sector into the 2020s, with statutory registration common to B&B, hotels and AirBnB alike and consolidated minimum standards on fire safety and consumer protection to ensure a level playing field for all. The scheme would also hand powers to local authorities to limit the number of homes which can be registered as short lets.

Finally, the paper proposes a whole series of measures to increase visitor numbers overall and to make visitors’ experience better while they’re here. In particular, we make the case for a new convention centre in London to rival that of Paris, drawing hundreds of thousands more people in each year with opportunities for the whole country. We would likewise invest in better public transport all round Britain, and work with the industry to provide bus links between attractions so that fewer people need to use a car to make the best of their time.

While the Conservatives do their best to drive people away, Liberal Democrats want the opposite. We are ready to create opportunities in every corner of the country and to show Britain is open for business.

* Dee Doocey is Liberal Democrat Tourism Spokesperson in the House of Lords.

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4 Comments

  • Three comments:

    (1) We don’t need more useless regulation by underfunded local authorities. We need more enforcement of existing rules.

    (2) We need a clear rule that AirBnBing a property for more than a specified number of days a year requires planning permission. I don’t know what the right parameters are but I would say lettings for periods of 3 months or more should not need to be taken into account and letting out a residential property for up to 30 days in any calendar year should be permitted without any change of using being required. Maybe also some flexibility for university accommodation being let between June and September.

    (3) I agree that we need to make culture less London-centric. The best way to do that is to introduce charges for those visiting the British Museum, National Gallery, Science Museum, Tate Modern, National History Museum, V&A and Tate Britain. And the cry goes up – but this is pricing poor people out. I do not see any poor people there now – I see lots of tourists ticking these museums off their bucketlists. Having people pay would generate money to allow decent extended opening hours, e.g. 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. three or four days a week and Saturdays and to subsidise museums and galleries outside of London. And everyone who receives a council tax bill gets with it a set of free tickets for these national attractions. Much fairer for people from outside London. Anyone who wants to visit frequently can pay £40-50 for membership per year. And tourists from abroad can buy tickets.

    (4) “Partnerships between businesses in the fast food industry and those in premier catering” don’t work. The work involved is completely different. Lots of ordinary people start at the bottom in a high end restaurant – the pay is no better than KFC or McDonalds in any case.

    There is the possibility for a virtuous circle with UK tourism – make coastal resorts attractive to visit for 6 months of the year instead of 3 months and business overheads come time and pricing gets more competitive. Activities such as kayaking, mountain biking, etc. are very popular, but there are problems with access, with capital for small business and, most importantly, with public transport that is sufficiently frequent and relatively affordable.

  • nigel hunter 2nd Sep '19 - 11:02pm

    Affordable Public Transport is the key to linking Tourist sights together to encourage larger. footfall ‘This increases jobs bus drivers and could develop bus manufacturing in the UK .A stimulus for manufacturing to encourage growth in the tourist services

  • William Fowler 3rd Sep '19 - 7:23am

    I thought small B and B’s were not regulated so they probably won’t bother if burdened with new laws and costs, less accommodation means higher prices means less visitors. Most seaside resorts work on the back of cheapish rooms – they are in competition with the costas – and easy access, though the latter means cars because trains are two to three times more expensive and often more expensive than taking a plane to Spain. A much better way would be to have entertainment zones and massive shopping experiences, which will need radically easier planning and cheap swathes of land.

    Anything that increases the cost of any kind of accommodation is a disaster in the making, the UK already ruined by high land costs.

  • I live in a coastal area where the economy is highly reliant on tourism. This equates to seasonal, low paid work. Our struggle is to bring well paid, high tech/professional jobs to the area.
    The above paints a picture of well paid careers, travel to exciting foreign parts but no clear idea how we create those jobs when the reality of the “hospitaity” industry is school leavers washing dishes down the local pizza restaurant for £6 an hour.

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