Tourism minister Tracey Crouch goes on maternity leave at the end of this month. She spoke to Travel Weekly about her first eight months in the role
Q. Your role combines sport, tourism and heritage – a big role in a small department. How do you divide your time?
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) may be relatively small, but the importance of our remit is huge in terms of its economic effects and the impact on our culture. Sport, tourism and heritage may look diverse, but they are interlinked.
Good news for one is often good news for the others. For example, big sporting events boost tourism. The Rugby World Cup provided enjoyment and inspiration to millions of people around the world as well as an estimated boost to the UK economy of up to £1 billion.
I visit initiatives, meet key stakeholders, attend debates in Parliament and work with colleagues in government to push our agenda across all these areas.
Q. Few questions put to you in Parliament since you were appointed have been tourism‑related. Does that reflect a lack of interest among MPs?
Tourism is a global success story. You only have to look at last year’s [UK arrival] figures to see how tourism has provided an economic boost for the UK. We broke our record for international visits.
When a sector is growing and has a great settlement in the Spending Review [announced in November], you can understand MPs might not have as many pressing questions.
What I want to do is make sure the country outside London benefits from international visitors, and our Five Point Plan outlines our vision to expand that.
Q. You were on the culture, media and sport committee before the election. How important is the committee? Was the role one you sought?
To say this brief interests me is obvious. My time on the culture, media and sport committee prepared me for the varying issues my portfolio throws up.
The committee helps to hold the government to account and raises concerns MPs and the public have. Discussions with my colleagues in Parliament, during debates and committee sessions, help inform policy.
Q Will the government’s Five-Point Plan for tourism amount to more than fine words?
The plan is about so much more than fine words. The industry has a genuine strategy to spread the benefits of tourism beyond London. We’ve identified key areas that will provide greater returns.
For example, improving apprenticeships so they work in a seasonal environment will help the sector attract the best talent. We know there are issues with infrastructure. That is why transport is a key pillar.
We’re making real progress in this area and I look forward to seeing what more we can achieve. We’ll be working with the Tourism Industry Council to get a sense of the progress.
Q. What is the role of the council? Many would like to see it develop beyond DCMS?
The council is important. It allows us to gain ideas from people in tourism. A range of organisations are represented. We’ll be asking questions, posing challenges and seeking guidance on a range of issues. It’s a cross-government approach.
One of the first topics the council will look at is apprenticeships. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is leading on this. The work of the council feeds into the Inter-Ministerial Group on Tourism, launched in July, so ministers across government hear the feedback and are free to pose questions.
This link means there is a genuine dialogue between the industry and ministers from a range of departments.
I couldn’t do my job without relaying industry concerns and issues beyond DCMS. The inter-ministerial group has put this communication on a formal footing. It joins up policy on tourism across all parts of government. Ministers across departments sit around one table to discuss a range of important issues for the sector.
Q. The outbound sector feels it lacks a single point of contact with the government. Do you sympathise?
Very few areas have a single point of contact in government. The wide-ranging nature of tourism means we need a range of people and skills working on it. However, DCMS is a small department and we have a focused team who people should feel free to contact.
Q. What advice would you give the industry in making its points to government?
Be clear on what you are asking for and what action you want government to take. We’re always happy to consider change, but we need to know what action will make a difference for those on the ground.
There are times when it won’t be possible for us to do what people want, but we will always look at it.vQ. What has most pleased or surprised you in your first months in office?
The record number of visitors is testament to the dedication of the industry. I didn’t fully appreciate how tourism is distributed. It’s extraordinary that 54% of international visitors’ money is spent in London. I’m committed to realising our vision to get tourists to travel beyond London.
Q. How do you judge tourism’s contribution? Is it just about the numbers?
The benefits of tourism run much deeper than the economic. By attracting tourists, we’re able to showcase the best of our way of life as well as the beauty of this country. Tourism enhances the quality of life for those who visit, as well as for their hosts.
Q. Who will cover for you when you go on maternity leave?
David Evennett [Conservative MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford] will take up the position of acting sport, tourism and heritage minister from the end of January when I go on leave.
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