A healthy and functioning VisitEngland is a good thing for domestic tourism, says Geoff Cowley, managing director of Wyndham Vacation Rentals UK
On 25th November we will see the Chancellor announce the outcome of his long awaited spending review. Whatever your political allegiance, this will clearly have an major impact on the economy over the next four years, and will affect a wide range of public and private sector organisations.
For those of us in the tourism industry there will undoubtedly be changes – but will they create an opportunity to grow, or present a real challenge for the domestic tourism industry?
Firstly I do think the government is pro-tourism, both inbound and out, and the government’s new Five Point Plan for Tourism and the ongoing GREAT campaign could result in long-term benefits for the UK.
While industry and the supporting bodies are doing well in bringing new visitors in to the UK – especially to London and the cities – the vast majority of the people who holiday in the rest of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland come from within our own borders.
The responsibility for promotion of these destinations primarily lies with the national tourist boards of England, Wales and Scotland, alongside and in conjunction with Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) and the industry. This therefore means that the funding for those tourist boards is essential for the health of domestic tourism and the success of the government’s plan.
It is a well-accepted fact that over a long period of time England has become the poor tourism relation within the UK family of National Tourist Boards, constraining its economic potential to deliver jobs and growth.
While Visit Wales and Visit Scotland have budgets of over £20m and £54m respectively, VisitEngland only receives a core budget of less than £7m - for an industry worth £106bn and creating 2.6m jobs.
Should the Chancellor reduce funding for VisitEngland further, or remove its marketing remit, we could reach the point where VisitEngland will no longer be able to support business development and domestic marketing activity as it has done so successfully in recent years.
This would be a real travesty for the industry and the economy – especially at a time when there is a real opportunity for operators, DMOs and other regional interests to come together to increase visitor numbers and spend in the areas which need it most.
It is because of this I have recently put my name to an open letter to the Chancellor, signed by the leaders of a wide range of tourism businesses and trade bodies, to stress the importance of a strong and healthy VisitEngland and to encourage him to continue with current funding and marketing role as well as providing additional funding for specific regional objectives.
A healthy and functioning VisitEngland is a good thing for domestic tourism, and will, with the right support and focus, help play a key role in the economic performance of sector and in targeting opportunities and providing benefits.
I sincerely hope that the Chancellor and his team appreciate that by supporting it they can help one of our most successful and innovate industry sectors continue to flourish and deliver the successful outcomes his government desires.
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