This has been a fantastic fortnight for UK tourism. HRH The Prince of Wales launched English Tourism Week with a special message encouraging visits to destinations which have been affected by flooding, reminding us all of the economic importance of tourism, the UK’s fifth biggest industry. English Tourism Week saw an array of wonderful events and initiatives including the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, ‘Big Weekends’ in Kent and Hertfordshire, and many MPs visiting tourism businesses on ‘tourism constituency day’.
On the first day of the week my organisation, the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions published our members’ visitor figures for 2015. It was another record year for ALVA Members and the media loved the fact that last year more people visited the British Museum and National gallery, combined then visited Barcelona or that more people visited the V&A, the Science Museum and Natural History Museum, combined, then visited Venice. The Scottish media celebrated Scottish Tourism Week with our revelation that more people visited the top 9 ALVA Scottish attractions, combined, last year then visited Australia AND New Zealand.
I was delighted that the Secretary of State and great advocate for tourism, John Whittingdale MP, and David Evennett MP, DCMS Minister for Tourism and Heritage, attended the Tourism Alliance’s annual parliamentary reception in the House of Commons. The Secretary of State and I reminded MPs – our largest turnout – of the size, diversity and excellence of our tourism product here in England and that the Tourism Alliance was created in the wake of foot and mouth disease, which happened 15 years ago. It was that crisis which prompted tourism organisations and businesses to come together to provide a single voice to Government, raising issues, encouraging greater investment and finding policy solutions to obstacles to growth.
A good example of this relationship was a meeting held last week between Tourism Alliance members and Tourism Minister David Evennett. We covered issues as diverse as VAT, visas, broadband, the new Discover England fund and the need for LEPs and local authorities to maintain and increase their investment in tourism. These regular meetings with Ministers are an important way of ensuring that our sponsor Government department knows the industry’s issues thoroughly. Thus it is able to brief the cross-Government group of ministers which the Prime Minister created soon after the last election.
In the last two weeks I’ve also run visitor attraction workshops with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board in Lurgan and Derry / Londonderry; chaired an excellent Tourism Society Question Time at the British Travel and Tourism Show in Birmingham (hot topics were the EU, spreading tourism benefits across the UK and digital marketing); spoke at the Scottish Tourism Alliance’s conference in Edinburgh, as part of Scottish Tourism Week, and opened the brilliantly refurbished Fashion Museum in Bath and it’s terrific new exhibition “A History of Fashion in 100 objects”.
I’m hugely fortunate to travel throughout the UK and see the creativity, passion and enthusiasm within the tourism industry and, through the Tourism Alliance, remind policymakers of how globally impressive our industry is and the steps we can make together to improve and grow.”
Bernard Donoghue, Chairman, Tourism Alliance, and Director of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions.