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House of Commons

Monday 25 February 2002

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Tourism (Kent)

1. Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford): What steps the Government are taking to promote tourism and support the tourist industry in Kent Thames-side. [34227]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): With the agreement of the Chief Secretary, I am delighted to inform the House that we will make available up to £20 million of additional public funds to promote Britain abroad as a tourist destination. This campaign will benefit Kent Thames-side. It will be targeted at our seven key markets, including the United States as well as France, Germany and the Netherlands.

This is the first time that the Government have created such a powerful public-private coalition with industry organisations. The industry has already committed about £5 million in cash, and we will match industry funds pound for pound. It is a fantastic opportunity for recovery from the blows of foot and mouth and the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on New York on 11 September. It is also a model for the overdue modernisation of the industry as a whole. I hope that the House will welcome that announcement.

Dr. Stoate: I thank my right hon. Friend for that news, which my constituents will welcome.

As my right hon. Friend will know, Kent Thames-side is one of the most rapidly developing economic- regeneration areas in Europe. It is struggling hard to shake off its old industrial image and become a vibrant, modern, forward-looking region. What can the Government do to ensure that Kent Thames-side—particularly my constituency—is put on the tourist map, so that those who do visit this country can benefit from its many charms?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend is himself a powerful advocate of those charms. Moreover, as he will know, the successful investment of lottery funds has brought about the regeneration of Chatham dockyard, and the Channel tunnel international railway station at Ebbsfleet, which

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will attract more visitors to the area, will be completed in 2003. An industry that already brings £195 million into Kent is set to grow.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham): I hope that my question will not be misconstrued as unparliamentary language.

Has the Secretary of State received the same response as me when raising the subject of the British Tourist Authority's new tourism promotion campaign, especially from Americans—not so much "UK OK!" as a bemused "UKOK?"? How does she think that will help to promote tourism in Kent Thames-side and the rest of Britain? Does she consider it a worthy successor to Cool Britannia?

Tessa Jowell: Let me deal with that question as constructively as I can. The slogan "UKOK" and the marketing that accompanied it were subjected to the usual rigorous testing. There are decisions that professionals make about marketing slogans and marketing content; I am prepared to accept the judgment of those professionals, and then to reach conclusions about effectiveness judging by results. All the feedback that we have received from the United States suggests that the "UKOK" campaign has been marketed very well there, but proof will be provided by the number of additional visitors that it brings to Britain.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston): Given the British Tourist Authority's commitment to promoting the whole of Britain overseas, does my right hon. Friend share my concern at the opinions attributed to Mr. Philip Riddell of VisitScotland, who says that this year the American market should be regarded as a lost cause for Scotland? Will she join me and the people of Scotland in disagreeing profoundly with that view and encouraging the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting—who I understand is going to America this week—to promote Scotland as well as the rest of the United Kingdom this year? We want to make a new start in presenting a new Britain to the Americans.

Tessa Jowell: I unreservedly oppose the view taken by VisitScotland. It is a dismal, pessimistic view that is simply not borne out by the evidence of an increasing number of American visitors who want to visit Europe. We particularly want to persuade them to visit Britain in this jubilee year to celebrate the Commonwealth games. There is always a good reason to visit Britain; this year, being American is a particularly good reason.

David Burnside (South Antrim): Does the Secretary of State agree that the most effective form of marketing is the press and public relations, which are more cost-effective than advertising? This year, do we not have the greatest news peg in the Queen's golden jubilee? Will the right hon. Lady try to persuade the marketing experts and gurus—who have not been very impressive up to now—to use it to bring tourists into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—indeed the whole of the British Isles? Will she also make representations to the palace to the effect that all members of the royal family

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should act as ambassadors this year, especially in the United States and the Commonwealth, and encourage tourism into the United Kingdom?

Tessa Jowell: Marketing and press coverage go together. The funding that I have announced today will do just that. The jubilee year is a great opportunity to increase the number of tourists from America, which is particularly important because on average for every £1 a domestic tourist spends, an American visitor spends £6. It is important for the economy. We want tourists to visit the whole of the United Kingdom. Prince Charles has already signalled his support by writing a foreword to the heritage map in support of the marketing campaign to bring people to Britain.

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): I know that most hon. Members feel that they are national treasures, but may I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to north Kent again? My constituency has the largest wetland in Britain, yet we do not market it at all. We are struggling to understand how best to work with the tourist authorities to obtain the full value of tourism. The White Paper did not explain whether we needed more museums, art galleries or whatever else we have in our constituencies. Will she comment on that?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend is right. In his constituency and throughout the UK there are unexplored and hidden treasures. I hope that a more aggressive approach to marketing, more streamlined communications and putting more information on line will help to deal with that, but the regional development agencies have a tremendously important part to play. Their performance in this area is somewhat variable, but he should urge his RDA to conduct an audit of unrecorded visitor attractions in his constituency and beyond to ensure that they are part of the marketing information that is developed.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): We warmly welcome the Secretary of State's announcement of matched funding for the BTA, which we advocated more than two years ago, although it has taken two major crises to persuade the Government to take an interest in tourism. Does she recognise that 80 per cent. of visitors to English regions, such as Kent Thames-side with its unique facilities, are domestic tourists, and that there is nothing in the announcement to encourage people in England to take holidays and short breaks at home? When will the Government put tourism in England on the same footing as tourism in Scotland and Wales by restoring the marketing role to the English Tourism Council, which the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting has acknowledged should never have been taken away by the Government?

Tessa Jowell: I am delighted that today's announcement has attracted such strong cross-party support. It is a pity that the Opposition did not invest in tourism when they were in government. However, the hon. Gentleman has been generous in support of the announcement. I and my hon. Friend the Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting agree that we need a more vigorous and focused marketing organisation for England. We are discussing with the various organisations how that will be achieved.

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Museums (Nottingham)

2. Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North): When she plans to meet the Council for Museums and Libraries to discuss the funding of regional museums in Nottingham. [34228]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells): My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for the Arts regularly meets Lord Evans of Temple Guiting, the chairman of resource, the Council for Museums and Libraries, to discuss the funding of museums in all the English regions, including the east midlands.

Mr. Allen: My hon. Friend will be aware of the rich diversity of museums in Nottingham: there is not just the traditional Robin Hood, Nottingham castle, Newstead abbey and Wollaton hall, but contemporary shows such as the Warhol exhibition and very good outreach work by the city council in the education sector. Will he take the opportunity to visit Nottingham in the near future, above all to discuss the co-ordination between the four counties of Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire on the renaissance in the regions fund? There is £267 million in that fund, and I assure my hon. Friend that if he comes to Nottingham we will make a good case as to why we should have at least our fair share of that.

Dr. Howells: I look forward to that visit, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will make a good case; he always does.

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