Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 148)

THURSDAY 26 APRIL 2001

MR ALAN BRITTEN AND MS MARY LYNCH

Ms Ward

  140. I notice from your own figures that domestic tourists spend four times the amount that international visitors will spend in this country. If you do not have a marketing budget—and I am conscious of the fact that I see on television or on billboards adverts from the Scottish Tourist Board to go and visit beautiful parts of Scotland, and from the Welsh Tourist Board—who is doing something for England, promoting what is available here?

  (Mr Britten) Of course, there is a need to market England, particularly for the British Tourist Authority, who need to market England as a brand. There is a debate, as I am sure you know, about whether England is a brand or whether the regions should market themselves, and I think a great deal of marketing in England to the domestic market should come through the regions. They do not have enough marketing money either. It is extremely important that they should be able to market themselves. I do agree, and I have said, that I think there should be a national budget as well, to promote staying in this country.

  141. In England?

  (Mr Britten) Domestic people, and Scottish and Welsh people staying in England, to point out the excitement that there is in staying in this country. Some of our research recently, which we brought forward and have published, shows that the leakage of domestic pounds overseas has been increasing and accelerating, so that what we call the tourism deficit is now in the order of £4 billion. It has deteriorated by about £6 billion over the last three years. I believe there is scope to encourage people not to go abroad but to stay in this country, because it is very exciting to do so.

  142. It is, but the amount of marketing that is made available to people in this country to go abroad becomes much more interesting in terms of weather, other opportunities, costs of flights. You are making a case for the regions to be able to work in promoting their own areas, but as I understand from what we have heard this morning, that is in addition in Scotland and Wales to what they already do. They market nationally, but they also market on a regional basis as well.

  (Mr Britten) They market their regions to domestic consumers. I would like to see much more of it. I would like to see Yorkshire marketing itself, I would like to see the South West marketing itself, but in addition to that, as well as marketing, I believe there is a structural requirement. I have talked about the availability of information. You have not only got to have a good product, but you have to make it easy to buy. It is not as easy to buy tourism in this country as it is sometimes to just fly overseas. That is something that needs to be addressed, partly through information technology, partly through transport. There are big issues to make tourism easier in England.

  143. What are you going to do to help negotiate with other agencies on behalf of the regions? For example, one of the things I heard in the Lake District was the sheer cost of the train from London. It is prohibitive. For what it would cost you, you could buy a flight to New York.

  (Mr Britten) That is true.

  144. What are you doing to negotiate on behalf of all of the regions in the country with transport agencies, rail companies, bus companies and airlines, to try and provide a better, more efficient and cost-effective system of transport and advertising?

  (Mr Britten) I am hoping that we shall get some very clear ideas on that from the transport task force that we set up, which is going to report within a month. We set up four task forces looking into various aspects, and the transport task force is about to report on the things that can be done. I really believe that some of the issues there are so big that it will be very difficult for us to approach them, but we ought to be able to pick off some easier things. The BTA did a very good job recently with something called "First Impressions". We have to get better linkages, better connectivity between one form of transport and another, for example. Costs are extremely difficult to address, but, of course, we can keep shouting about them and are glad to do so. I am not sure that my voice will be any more than a drop in the ocean, but I will try very hard because tourism is a huge industry and a huge economic driver.

  145. Is that not exactly the problem? Whilst you may be shouting, it is barely audible outside. It is just not enough for you to do that when you have no marketing budget at all. Had it not been for foot and mouth disease, you would have been in the situation without any additional money at all, but with a need still to promote England in comparison to other attractions available to visitors in this country. What are you doing to continually argue to the government that we need to have more money available to the tourist industry and a much more co-ordinated approach to tourism to make sure that tourism is much higher up the political agenda?

  (Mr Britten) We do do that whenever we can.

  (Ms Lynch) On the marketing issue, certainly the message that we are given regularly is that the Treasury believes that tourism is a successful industry and does not merit support from the public purse. That is a very strong view, and it has been evident in our discussions with them in the last few weeks. I do not think you should be in any doubt about the energy that we put into arguing the case—and it is not just ourselves; it is industry associations, individual businesses, MPs, as well as this Committee. We have all been trying to make the case for some time, but we are fighting against a very strong view about the industry, that it does not need support. On the second point on marketing, how we address the issues, one thing I would say is that the analysis we produced in January looked at England as a destination as the customer sees it. It is very important that we do not fool ourselves. We have to be realistic about what we do extremely well and what are our disadvantages. We do have a disadvantage with the weather, and we do actually have a disadvantage with cost. Those are some givens. We may be able to work at the edges of that, but you have to ask how we can present a proposition to customers which will be perceived as high value to them. There are lots of ways of doing that, many of them outlined in the document we presented in January, but you have to sell to the customer a proposition that they are willing to hear. The biggest opportunity is in selling the idea of extra things that you can do. I firmly believe that foot and mouth has demonstrated that actually, tourism begins at home. If we do not feel proud enough of what we have to visit it ourselves, we will never succeed in selling it overseas, and therefore we need to actually position what we have in a way that is very appealing to people who live here. If it works for them, it will work for everybody else.

Mr Keen

  146. If we did not already know, we certainly know now that there is not a lot of taxpayers' money going into publicising tourism. I get the impression that the British meat industry is subsidised tremendously, certainly much more than the tourist industry, yet it appears, with BSE and foot and mouth, to have done tremendous damage to tourism. Am I somewhere near right in that statement?

  (Mr Britten) I believe you are right. I do not know that either. The tourism industry, as Mary has said, suffers from the fact that it is growing, and that sounds like good news, but it is actually not good news because we are not growing nearly fast enough, and it suffers from the extreme fragmentation of it. One of the reasons I believe it has not had proper attention is because there are not these clumps of assets and people like there are in the motor industry or in shipbuilding, where something dramatic happens and everybody looks at it.

Chairman

  147. The shipbuilding industry in this country is practically dead. The motor industry has declined almost exponentially. Your industry, this kind of service industry, is what is replacing manufacturing industry as the motor of this country's economy. It is simply not good enough to say that has happened to them. You are at the forefront of one of the most important industries this country has, and what one is looking for is some sense of urgency, commitment and zip.

  (Mr Britten) I have to say I agree entirely with that. I think the country has not yet come to terms with its transition into a service industry. The tourism industry is a major leader of it and I go along absolutely with everything you are saying; I welcome it hugely. I was trying to explain to the questioner why I thought that the subsidies did not come to the tourist industry, because it does not catch the eye. We have to work extremely hard, and we are working hard.

  Chairman: I should add, by the way, that I was ministerially responsible for five years for the shipbuilding industry and the motor manufacturing industry, and what has happened to them may be a consequence of that.

Mr Keen

  148. Following the present crisis, will part of your advice be to have a look at the British meat industry? Do you think that in 25 years' time it will seem extremely strange? Is it an industry that, for healthy eating purposes, should be on the decline? Are you going to make that point and compare it with the tourism industry, that we need to redress the balance?

  (Mr Britten) I would really like to concentrate on the tourism industry. It stands on its own feet. It is huge, it is dynamic, it is growing, it is something that employs masses of people—it has created one in four of the new jobs in this country. It is an industry which would repay amply Treasury investment, and I think we should concentrate on that rather than perhaps make comparisons with others. It stands on its own feet.

  Mr Keen: I agree with that, but surely, with the damage to the tourism industry that has been caused by the British meat industry, it must be part of your advice to government to have another look at the pinnacle at the top of which we have placed our meat industry for so many years traditionally. I have great sympathy with the farmers; I am not attacking them, but we have to have another look at it, do we not?





 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 10 May 2001