Why now is the time to celebrate tourism

Next week will be English Tourism Week – a time to celebrate the huge contribution of our industry to the UK economy and to galvanise political support for a sector which creates jobs and growth in every constituency across the land.

It is difficult to feel like celebrating when many of our tourism businesses are facing the current challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many thriving businesses have been forced to close and face an uncertain future, unsure whether the “new normal” will be an economically viable one.

But one thing is clear from our collective experience under house arrest – what people are missing is not the latest gadget or latest fashion – but time to spend with family and friends, in the places they love most.    We have known for many years that our businesses provide the backdrop to our best memories and their absence is felt keenly – emotionally as well as economically.

Getting our tourism and hospitality businesses back up and running is not only vital for our economy, it is vital for our communities too.  Our self-catering cottages and attractions support our independent coffee shops and bookstores, as well as our local farmers, laundry services, post-offices and pubs, name but a few.     Many of our rural communities and coastal towns would struggle to survive without our visitors – helping our businesses to re-open in a way which inspires consumer confidence and makes economic sense may be our biggest challenge yet, but one that is worth the fight.

There is a lot to do in advance of the industry’s Independence Day on 4 July. Guidance is being prepared on the detail of how businesses can operate in a safe way offering reassurance to customers and staff alike.   Our industry is famously innovative and has already demonstrated huge entrepreneurial panache in the past few weeks. From pubs turning into grocery stores; full service restaurants switching to takeaways; attractions offering virtual tours and educational programmes,  our industry’s ability to adapt and survive is immense.

The challenge of re-opening will be great – from additional costs to make premises “Covid-secure” to the very real challenge of balancing operational costs with reduced income.  That is why our industry will continue to need Government support for many months to come.

Every industry thinks that it is special and we know that the Treasury is always nervous of “special pleading”.   But an industry which brings jobs and joy to every constituency in the country is special.  Investing in a vibrant and innovative sector for which there is, if our website traffic is anything to go by, significant demand is not only the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense.

This English Tourism Week, we will be asking politicians up and down the country to pledge their support for our industry.  Using the simple phrase “I support Tourism because….”they will be asked to say why our industry is particularly important to their constituency.  If any of them are lost for words how about…

                       Because it brings £120 billion to the UK economy

[Mike drop]

Deirdre Wells

Chair of English Tourism Week