DCMS blog

Are you going away at all this year, sir?

by

John Penrose

John David Penrose is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Weston-super-Mare

It’s around this time of year that Ministers for Tourism get the call, I’m told. It may come from a Sunday tabloid or a daily red-top. It may even be a broadsheet. But the question is very much the same, whoever’s asking. It goes like this: Where’s the Minister for Tourism going on holiday this year?


And – again this is what I’ve been told by others – once the warning lights have stopped flashing in the press office, the smoke has cleared and the scream of the klaxons has died away, a crack team of advisors assembles, and work on the ‘model answer’ to the question gets underway.

Holidaying in the UK

Obviously, the ‘a-word’ is completely out. Going abroad is simply not an option for the Minister for Tourism because his sole purpose in life, don’t you realise, is to persuade people to take their holidays in the UK.
St Ives picture by Matt BrowneAnd nothing too extravagant in terms of time off either. A month’s hiking in the Cairngorms might, in fact, do the hapless minister a power of good in terms of recharging the batteries, regaining the spiritual equilibrium and so on; but the press won’t wear it, so don’t even think about it.
Indeed, if I may digress for a moment, legend has it that one of Mrs Thatcher’s summer ministerial reshuffles in the 80s ended up being spread across a whole month because a prospective Minister chose to spend a leisurely five weeks fishing on a lake in Scotland.
Never mind not being able to get a mobile signal, this chap was 25 miles from the nearest landline when destiny called. History, by the way, doesn’t record the precise shade of puce that Bernard Ingham’s face took on as repeated attempts to make contact foundered.
So, in the unlikely event of my press officer actually bothering to tell me when ‘the call’ comes, I’m going to be ready with my answer. What’s more, I’m going to deploy the cunning strategy of telling the truth. Here goes.
With a work/life balance that has seaside at one end and city at the other, I already have a pretty good grounding in much of what tourists experience when they holiday here, not to mention a near-encyclopaedic knowledge of the landscape between Weston and London, as seen through the windscreen of a family car, very often to a merry soundtrack of The wheels on the bus go round and round. . .
But a short break in Cornwall earlier in the year reminded me just how brilliant a proper UK holiday can be, although it’s hard to forget when I spend a fair slice of time each week enjoying the delights of Weston beach with my family anyway. . .
And as far as the summer break goes, I will – as previously advertised on these pages – be going round the country visiting tourist destinations, and talking to the people who have first-hand experience of running successful tourism businesses.

Channel hopping

And as for the a-word, well. . . OK, yes, I will be popping over to France once the tour is over.
The thing is, during the election campaign I promised my daughters (both under five) that we will go to Disneyland Paris, and it’s a campaign promise I intend to keep. . . I know we have excellent theme parks here in the UK and, heaven knows, I expect I’ll be developing a working knowledge of them all as the years fly by but, sadly, none of them boast staff who dress up as giant-size mice, ducks, dogs and fairy princesses.
And that, at this stage, is what counts. Because, When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are – when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. . . or something.