DCMS blog

So what do tourists actually do when they come here?

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John Penrose

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

We’re all in favour of people coming to this country for their holidays, of course. The more the better, in fact. But what is it they get up to while they’re here?

A rather cold lion this week in Trafalgar Square

The received wisdom, of course, is that it’s our history, heritage and culture that bring them here in the first place. And that, unsurprisingly, is broadly true. But man (and woman, come to that) cannot live by castles and cathedrals alone, and it’s interesting to learn what else they get up to. So thanks once again to the researchers and marketing folk at VisitBritain who have just published data addressing that very question. The headline answer will not at first glance cause many jaws to drop, though. Eating, shopping and talking to the locals are the three things that come out on top.


But, hang on, this is ‘unfriendly’ Britain where the food is awful and everything costs too much that we’re talking about, isn’t it? So what’s going on? Well, no head scratching required – the truth is that our national stereotype is just as inaccurate as every other one. I talked last week about food in this country and how the hard evidence of Michelin stars and international competition results give the lie to the ‘chips with everything’ canard; and the same is true of value for money in this country and the general standoffishness that is supposed to be another of our national traits. It’s simply not true, and I’ll be saying a great deal more about this – not to mention addressing the nonsense that’s often said about the weather in this country – next year.

‘Grog on the Tyne’

But back to the VisitBritain research which, according to their press release, reveals ‘fascinating variations’ between regions. Apparently, visitors favour pubs and clubs in the north east, ‘socialising with the locals’ in the North West, enjoying the natural beauty of the landscape in Yorkshire and the East and West Midlands, and visiting the coast in the South West (Weston isn’t mentioned by name but a nod’s as good as a wink, when it comes to visitor surveys, in my view). You might want to take a look through the rest of the findings on the VisitBritain website or, if you prefer, take a look at the press coverage. The Daily Star’s ‘Grog on the Tyne’ headline in particular showed once again the tabloid sub editors’ knack of getting to the heart of complicated stories.

The point of all this, though, is that Britain really does have a lot to offer for the visitor who gets the chance to get outside the M25 and, unlike many countries, we have a regional mixture of cultures and attractions that are quite outstanding for the size of the country. We’ll be doing our best to get this point across loud and clear in the run up to the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and of course the Olympics.

Merry Christmas

All that now remains is for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and to thank you for reading this page of the website for the past six months. Next year we’ll be publishing my review of tourism policy and my ideas for ways in which we can do still more to grow this brilliant industry. There’ll be plenty to do on my other subject areas too: heritage, licensing, gambling and horse racing too. And there’s even a bit of ceremonial business to do at the end of April, I hear. I can’t wait.

The photo – one of Landseer’s (rather chilly-looking) lions next to Nelson’s Column – is the handiwork of two work experience students, who braved the freezing winds of a December London to stock up the DCMS photo library. Warm thanks are due to Daniela Geraci and Tori Brinkley.

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