The government’s recent sector strategy could transform the perception of a sector which contributes £66bn to the economy and employs 1.6m people, says Allan Lambert, MD property and portfolio, Vacation Rentals UK

The tourism industry has always been a very important part of the British economy, bringing overseas spend to the UK and encouraging people to take domestic breaks. Unfortunately all too often this has been overlooked because of the nature of the businesses that make up the sector.

There are some big players in the space, not least our own portfolio of brands, but in sheer volume the vast majority are made up of individual attraction and accommodation providers, combined with pubs, restaurants and other associated businesses. Collectively their impact is huge, but individually their voice has been lost when compared to the likes of financial services or car manufacturers. In a world where those who shout loudest often come out on top this has meant the sector hasn’t received the support it needs, or the recognition it deserves.

It was therefore a breath of fresh air to see the recent DCMS announcement about plans to develop a strategy to champion and support the sector – which also provided a platform to showcase the scale of an industry which contributes £66bn to the economy and employs 1.6m people. In the statement, which outlines the intent to create the strategy, the government called upon tourism businesses to play their part in supporting growth.

Now, as many in the sector will know, we have all been championing tourism for decades, helping to extend booking periods, encourage careers in the sector and create partnerships to work together for the good of the industry. I know Hoseasons and have increased shoulder bookings, engaged the next generation in travel and worked with destination management organisations at all levels. But, it would be a little churlish to dwell on this, as there is always more we can do.

So, how can we help get this initiative off the ground, and what difference can it make? Firstly, there are already six other sector deals in place, each of which has been supported by investment and helped encourage growth, so there is a clear opportunity for the industry to benefit from being recognised in this way.

Secondly, VisitBritain has played a key role in helping to get this off the ground, for which it should be praised, but now we all need to contribute to the consultation by sharing information and views at a grass roots level.

Thirdly, because of the nature of the industry, with a strong small business base, it’s often been hard to measure our collective outputs. We therefore all need to work at quantifying our productivity through better collection and interpretation of data and tangible metrics. Finally, we must demonstrate how many of the initiatives highlighted by DCMS are already under way and just need greater support and leverage which we would get from government investment. If we can achieve these aims the chances of us achieving a specific sector deal will increase greatly.

So if we can all pull together, and play a part in getting the deal signed off, then it could be a transformational moment in the way tourism is viewed. So let’s show the government our potential, and help give the industry the deal it deserves.

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