British Tourist Authority chair Steve Ridgway hails the government’s ‘green light’ for tourism sector deal talks

The news this week that a sector deal for tourism has now entered an official negotiation with the UK government is an important milestone for our industry.

The announcement on Tuesday (November 27) by the culture secretary Jeremy Wright MP signalled the UK government’s intention to deliver a “landmark sector deal for the UK tourism industry to attract more domestic and overseas visitors and help drive major economic growth.”

The green light from the UK government is testament to 18 months of hard work, commitment and determination from the tourism industry, and it is worth reflecting on just how far along the road we have come.

We have made our case collectively and we should all be very proud of what has been achieved to date.

And not forgetting that this time two years ago many would have thought it unlikely that tourism would ever have been mentioned in a Modern Industrial Strategy.

Game-changer

Securing a sector deal will be a game-changer for the industry, spelling a step-change in how we underpin the success of tourism for a generation, fixing issues from skills and productivity to extending the season year-round and building stronger tourism destinations up and down the country.

And it will also help the industry face Brexit with increased resilience while boosting its productivity to match competitor nations.

Already one of the UK’s most valuable export industries, tourism needs no trade deals to attract overseas investment.

The UK government’s Industrial Strategy is structured around place, innovation and productivity. Our Tourism Sector Deal bid addresses all three.

Whilst the government has already concluded six sector deals with industries such as automotive and life sciences, tourism will be one of the first people-focused deals.

Tourism is an industry that employs 3.1 million people in every part of the country and even an incremental improvement to this sector has a huge impact.

Our plan to improve productivity by 1% by 2025 would deliver an additional £12 billion into the UK economy and help create 70,000 jobs.

With poor productivity across the economy, strides forward in tourism and hospitality will be the engine for improvement in the UK’s overall performance.

Ambitions

Whilst these ambitions seek to address national challenges, we know that to achieve them the work needs to be done on the ground.

The plans for Tourism Zones will help drive local leadership, extend the season and tackle local barriers to tourism growth such as transport and connectivity as well as work on long-term product development.

The Tourism Sector Deal bid I presented in October last year was ambitious and a result of the industry coming together with one voice, getting behind the bid with its own ideas for the future and working in partnership to put tourism at the top of the UK government’s agenda.

This week’s announcement demonstrates that our message to the government has been heard loud and clear.

There is now of course more hard work to do! It is expected that the negotiations will lead to a final sector deal for tourism announced sometime in early 2019.

Identify growth

The UK government has now laid down the gauntlet to the industry to come up with initiatives on skills and career development, on how to make the UK the most accessible tourism industry in the world, on sharing industry data to identify growth opportunities in new and emerging markets and to increase accommodation capacity.

I will be working with ministers and industry colleagues to ensure we continue to work together and deliver on these asks. More on this to follow soon.

Next year, 2019, marks 50 years since the creation of the British Tourist Authority. It is going to be fantastic to land our sector deal as we mark our half-century and as we look ahead to the next 50 years, working together to ensure a sustainable and thriving future for tourism.

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