So did you have a good one? Me too. Plenty of snow, roasting chestnuts, open fires and so forth.
Shame it’s over and and nice(ish) to be back at work, I suppose. And all the more so, in fact, when the first proper event after the Christmas and New Year holiday turned out to be a reception at No.10, with some rather good news to report on progress towards the £100 million tourism marketing fund we pledged last year to set up to help promote the UK.
The idea, you’ll recall, was to seize the opportunity presented to us in the run up to – and period after – the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, to market and promote the country to overseas visitors.
A flying start
Between the Royal Wedding in (gulp) just over three months time, The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics next year, we have three brilliant events which will grab the world’s attention. And it’s very important indeed that we in the tourism business do everything we can to take full advantage. Happily, the industry itself agrees and, happier yet, are going to put their money where their good intentions are. So huge thanks to BA, DFDS Seaways Ltd, lastminute.com, P&O and Radisson Edwardian who were first out of the traps with solid pledges. We’re off to a flying start and the money and payment-in-kind, once added to the £50 million of public spending through VisitBritain, means we’re well on course to reach the £100 million target.
There’ll be more details in due course about what the money will be used for, but one thing we have been able to be clear about is how we’re going to measure success. We’re aiming to get a million more visitors from overseas every year, spending an extra £2 billion while they’re in the UK, and the whole thing creating an additional 50,000 jobs in the industry. The current levels, by the way, are around 30 million, £16.6 billion and 1.5 million respectively, so a big ask but definitely a prize worth going for.
Finally, there’s a nice picture of us all in the State Room at No.10 with the Prime Minister, opposite. I’m the chap on the right hand side, one from the end and, as my press officer remarked with uncalled for hilarity, yes, I am wearing the same blue tie that has already appeared twice before on these pages. I promise I own a few others, but it’s my posing-for-pictures-with-tourism-grandees tie, if you must know. Ok?