Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Fourth Report


Public sector support for tourism: the future

93. It will be an enormous task to resuscitate tourism and reinstate the levels of business existing before the outbreak of foot and mouth disease, but the Government should seek to do far more—namely, to establish a structure of public sector support for tourism that befits the size of the industry and its contribution to the British economy and to the Exchequer. Immediate action must be followed swiftly by a more fundamental review. At this stage, we can only undertake an initial survey of these issues, but we wish to highlight this agenda now because it is vital that momentum is not lost and that tourism does not recede once more into the political and publicity undergrowth without these issues having been tackled.

94. The crucial role played by the BTA has been highlighted by recent events. There can be no doubt about the overwhelming case for additional resources for the BTA in the current financial year to put in place an effective recovery marketing plan. However, the Government must go further. Before the foot and mouth outbreak, the Government proposed to freeze the level of grant-in-aid for the BTA in 2002-03 and 2003-04. The wisdom of that approach has been called into question by recent developments. It would be far from helpful if the Government were to seek to return to the levels of expenditure on the BTA planned for future financial years before the impact on tourism of this crisis.

95. There is a need for increased funding for the BTA in part because its priorities must be reconsidered. The BTA has acknowledged that it will need to place a greater emphasis in future on the promotion of rural tourism.[175] Given the lower profile of many parts of rural Britain internationally, this will necessarily entail a greater level of investment. The Government must also reconsider the aims and objectives that it has set for the BTA. At the moment, the BTA's overriding target is to increase the additional spend by overseas tourists for each £1 of grant.[176] Greater additional spend is likely to be achieved with visitors concentrated in London. If a better spread of tourism expenditure across Britain is to be encouraged, there may be a case for reviewing the BTA's targets.[177]

96. Similarly, in the case of the ETC, there is a need to consider the role and funding requirements of that body beyond the immediate crisis. As we noted earlier in this Report, the Government established the ETC in 1999 without any power to undertake expenditure on marketing, allegedly because such activities would detract from its leadership and research role.[178] Similarly, Regional Tourist Boards did not receive public funds for marketing campaigns, being required to rely instead on private and local authority support for such activities.[179] It was a recurring theme in evidence that the crisis created by the outbreak of foot and mouth disease had exposed the weakness of these earlier decisions.[180] As public funding for marketing and promotion declined, such activities have become focused more and more on the retention of an existing customer base rather than the creation of new markets.

97. The ETC has been required to respond to the crisis by creating a Marketing Department from scratch.[181] Similarly, Regional Tourist Boards have lacked the staffing expertise and technology to respond as rapidly as they would wish to the immediate needs of the tourist industry precisely because they have not been in receipt of public funding for marketing.[182] As Mr Bell of South West Tourism vividly put it, the Boards have been left as organisations with a hole at their centre, since many of the activities expected of such a body—including product development, research and training—should radiate outwards from the core marketing function.[183] The pressing need for proper public investment in the marketing role of Regional Tourist Boards has been comprehensively demonstrated by the current crisis.[184] There is every reason to believe that clearer messages would have been sent out earlier had such a function been in existence.[185]

98. Just as importantly, there is a strong case that the English tourist product must be properly packaged and marketed. The situation in which Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can be promoted as separate entities while England cannot has rightly been described as "a nonsense".[186] The ETC argued that, while the main burden of marketing would fall to Regional Tourist Boards, there was a distinct need for national marketing of England.[187] This would facilitate marketing around themes, for example, tours of cathedral cities or Roman Britain.[188] This would also enable advertising designed to persuade the people of England to take more holidays in England.[189] It would make it possible for progress to be made on the urgent matter of developing "package holidays" for the domestic market, incorporating transport, accommodation and admission as appropriate.[190] This might in addition assist consideration of developing tourism through links to English Heritage and work by the Lottery distributing bodies on the restoration and development of tourist attractions. As the Chief Executive of the ETC noted, "tourism begins at home" and efforts to rebuild English tourism must be focused as much on the domestic as on the overseas market.[191]

99. On 30 April the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport appeared to reaffirm his commitment to the current division of responsibilities between the ETC and Regional Tourist Boards. He said that "the proper split of responsibilities must be between promotional work at regional level, and work on research, standards and quality at the English level".[192]

100. We find it puzzling that the Secretary of State should establish the ETC as a centre of expertise on tourism in England, and that that body should give clear and unequivocal advice that there is a need for a national marketing strategy and budget for England, but that the Secretary of State seems reluctant to accept the force of the case made by the body that he himself has chosen to establish. We recommend that the Government re-examine fundamentally and as a matter of urgency the case for sustained public funding for local, regional and national marketing of England and its component parts as a tourist destination. In future, it will be essential to promote areas most adversely affected by the current crisis with public funding, to develop a more coherent approach to marketing through the Regional Tourist Boards and to provide funding for the packaging and marketing of England as a tourist destination in its own right.

Departmental responsibility for tourism

101. In a previous Report, we questioned whether the fundamental economic importance of tourism was fully reflected in the priorities and objectives of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.[193] Despite the Department's subsequent assertions that tourism is "at the heart of the work of the Department", our earlier concerns have not been allayed. The Department's Tourism Strategy published in 1999 concentrates on themes and structures, but has little in the way of hard economic analysis of tourism. The Department had not managed to undertake economic analysis of tourism to enable it to make a compelling economic case to the Treasury for significantly increased public investment in tourism prior to the current crisis.

102. Many agencies that we talked to during our visit that are concerned with tackling the tourism crisis at a local level had had no contact at all with the Department that sponsors the tourism industry. The tourism sector has no direct financial relationship with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; all funding is channelled through quangos or through other Government Departments. Partly in consequence, the Department itself has appeared to have no established listening mechanism to learn at first hand about the state of tourism across the country, relying instead upon second-hand advice from quangos and on periodic meetings such as those of the Tourism Forum.

103. Both the BTA and Ms Anderson considered that there were benefits to tourism from its current departmental location in the United Kingdom Government, due to the synergy between tourism and other cultural and creative sectors for which the Department is responsible.[194] In the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, sponsorship of tourism is the responsibility of what might be termed more mainstream economic departments.[195]

104. There is a case for responsibility for tourism to be assumed by the Department of Trade and Industry in order that promotion of tourism can be integrated more effectively with other trade promotion overseas in Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates and in order that tourism can be sponsored by a Department whose core functions are economic.

105. The current Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting is one of three Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. She is responsible for tourism, broadcasting, film and the press and the creative industries, including the music industry; she supports the Secretary of State on Millennium issues and represents the Department's interests on a number of cross-departmental issues. Regardless of where departmental responsibility for tourism is located in the future, we recommend that tourism is and is seen to be the primary responsibility of the relevant Minister.

A focus on tourism

106. There was a consensus in evidence that one of the few redeeming features of this distressing and bleak episode is that it has served to bring to wider public and political attention the crucial importance of the tourist industry to the British economy and to the rural economy in particular.[196] Ms Anderson held out the hope that, "when this is all over we will have a re-invigorated and more successful tourism industry in this country".[197] This is the objective that must guide Government actions in the coming months and years.

175  Q 8. Back

176  Funding Agreement between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the British Tourist Authority for the Three Year Period from 1999-2000 to 2001-02, para 4.3.  Back

177  See First Report from the Welsh Affairs Committee, Wales in the World: The Role of the UK Government in Promoting Wales Abroad, HC (2000-01) 38, para 29. Back

178  Q 161. Back

179  QQ 82, 93. Back

180  Evidence, pp 69-70, 118, 126. Back

181  QQ 116, 132; Evidence, p 97. Back

182  Evidence, pp 69-70, 118. Back

183  Q 93. Back

184  Evidence, p 77. Back

185  Evidence, pp 69-70. Back

186  Evidence, pp 98-99. Back

187  Q 116. Back

188  Q 118. Back

189  Q 140. Back

190  Q 142. Back

191  Q 145. Back

192  HC Deb, 30 April 2001, col 632. Back

193  HC (1997-98) 742, paras 6, 8, 17. Back

194  QQ 27, 171. Back

195  QQ 66-67. Back

196  QQ 4, 61; Evidence, pp 72-75. Back

197  Q 196. Back

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 8 May 2001