Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta – The Travel Association
If you switch on the TV today you are likely to see the government’s new multi-million pound advertising campaign to encourage Brits to holiday at home this year and not go abroad.
At a time when the government is telling us it has ‘run out of money’ it seems an extraordinary waste of taxpayer’s money to invest so heavily in a tourism campaign to tell people to stay at home in 2012.
After all, it’s not like the UK will be short of publicity this year with two major international events taking place.
Does the British public really need this additional advertising campaign to help them decide where to go? The answer from an Abta YouGov poll this week is a resounding NO.
Two thirds of consumers said that they do not think the government should be spending money on telling people where to go on holiday.
The Government campaign also ignores the fact that many holidaymakers look forward to trips at home and abroad each year.
The UK is a fantastic destination with lots to offer and consistently ranks highly in our consumer research as one of the most memorable holiday destinations.
However, time and time again, the government pitches domestic holidays against foreign holidays to the benefit of neither sector.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some people will choke on their tea when they hear Bridlington beach compared to Bondi beach – each I’m sure has its charms, but they’re in no way substitute products.
At the same time, discouraging people from taking foreign holidays is potentially very damaging to the wider economy.
If we all did what the government has asked us to do, and stayed at home, what would this mean for the thousands of jobs that outbound tourism contributes - in travel agents, at airports, in destinations?
The government appears to be acting under a misguided notion that when people go abroad, the Treasury loses out. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
The outbound industry contributes hugely to the wealth of the UK both in terms of taxes, job creation and consumer spending – recent Abta research showed that 40% of British holidaymakers taking a longer foreign holiday will spend more than £300 in the UK on items such as clothes and cosmetics before they go away.
The outbound industry also contributes hugely to shaping our national identity by broadening people’s horizons.
One of the great things about the UK is our multi-cultural society and the fact that we are very tolerant of and curious about different cultures, much of which comes through foreign travel.
At Abta we believe both British and foreign holidays are great and that both have an equally important economic role to play.
We are banging this drum loudly in Westminster, and I’d encourage you to do the same by contacting your local MP. It is damaging for the government to be pitting one against the other, especially at a time when we are trying to stimulate growth.
It’s time the government showed its support for both sectors, celebrating the fact that the British public are fortunate to be able to enjoy a huge range of choice and diversity in where they holiday.
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