Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, we know of David Pitt's abiding love for London and Londoners. He undoubtedly loved not just the stupendous, prestigious tourist attractions such as Buckingham Palace, the Palace of Westminster, the Changing of the Guard, the Tower of London and the like, he would equally love what I call "the other London". In many a London borough there are fascinating places known to few visitors from abroad, and even from within Britain, but nevertheless worthy of visits.

I discovered an interesting hybrid called Discover Islington —a small struggling group, surviving on a shoestring, trying to serve those who live and work in that borough, and which, hitherto, merited support from, among others, the English Tourist Board. But not any more. That funding has dried up. Using public as well as private money, it opens up vistas of the other London about which we know but which needs sorely to be opened up and supported by us all. Perhaps I may ask

17 Jan 1995 : Column 615

the Minister a direct question. Will he look, or look again, at the type of initiative represented by Discover Islington? Sir John Egan can safely be left to nourish pomp and pageantry, but we need also to nourish that other London so beloved by David Pitt.

The other night I was a guest at a dinner given by ABTA for parliamentarians who take an interest in tourism. Mr Colin Trigger, the ABTA president, invited his fellow travel industry colleagues to brief us on their concerns. One which gained much support was along the lines that while they seemed to be moderately successful in encouraging British people to holiday abroad, the sad conclusion, based on much evidence, was that the product with which they were in competition—Britain—was declining as a competitor. That was not due to an absence of major attractions—our heritage and our history—but merely to the fact that nationally Britain did not take seriously the need to compete as vigorously as other countries. I asked, "What or who carried most responsibility to redress that?" Back came the emphatic reply, "The Government".

ABTA members are concerned not merely in sending Britons abroad, they convinced me of their concern to make it a two-way traffic. I share ABTA's view that despite the valiant endeavours of many people, the Government are required to lead them to a better future, or, as Adele Bliss, the chairman of the British Tourist Authority, said, when she introduced the BTA annual report last October:


    "If Government can shift its focus more towards accepting the high returns on its investment in tourism rather than seeking to minimise its commitments, whenever possible, then tourism will have the best chance it has had for a decade".

If it be the quality of its scepticism which impresses the Minister, he must have been suitably chastened when those who were dubbed "the knights of tourism" visited recently his right honourable friend the Secretary of State in what was undoubtedly the most unprecedented deputation of all time. The Minister knows that their message was to ask the Government to take tourism seriously; that it required tourism to be given a much higher priority in government economic thinking. The Minister will know that Sir Colin Marshall, chairman of British Airways, said to his right honourable friend:


    "The industry remains an also-ran in terms of budget considerations and status within the political forum. In the past, tourism to this country took care of itself. However, as more and more nations world-wide identify the industry's importance as a creator of wealth and jobs, competition is hotting up and we can no longer afford to be complacent".

That charge of complacency is one which the Minister tonight should take head on, for the evidence for the charge is plain for all to see.

Adele Biss painted two contrasting scenarios of tourism in Britain. It is easy to be carried away by euphoria based on statistics without being aware of the reality underneath. I believe that the emergence of the new Secretary of State, Mr. Stephen Dorrell, is good news for tourism. He has started to bang the drum for Britain, comparing the delights of Huddersfield with a week-end in Paris. Do not ask me which I would choose! He caught the headlines, however, which is his

17 Jan 1995 : Column 616

job. He sounds genuine in his aspirations to see Britain climb back up the league table of attractive countries to which world holiday-makers trek.

In 1980, 60 per cent. of Britons took their holidays here. By 1993 that figure had declined to 45 per cent. The BTA makes a valid point when complaining of a lack of focus and a haphazard approach to the industry by the Government. There are 220,000 tourism businesses—that is, businesses large and small which depend upon tourism. There are 510 local authorities, more than 100 city convention bureaux and four national tourist boards.

It is not just a question of funding, it is a question of leadership. Since 1980 we have seen Britain's share of world tourism decline from 6.7 per cent. to 6.3 per cent. in 1993. It is a challenge to us all—but mostly to the Government. We need increased investment by way of tax incentives, rather than taxes such as the new £5 and £10 airport tax on all incoming holiday-makers.

I know that the Minister, the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, is fighting the good fight. He has earned our thanks for his success in securing more funding for London. We wish him well as, together with his noble friend, he seeks to extend the battle world-wide.

8.32 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Viscount Astor): My Lords, it is a great privilege to be able to associate myself with the tributes which have been paid by my noble friend Lord Mountevans and others to Lord Pitt in the course of this debate. His accomplishments were many and wide-ranging. He was a distinguished medical practitioner, he was a leader in improving race relations and he was prominent in local government and as a Member of this House.

For much of his life, Lord Pitt worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of London. He was clearly aware of the significance of tourism to this city and gave freely of his time and abilities to play a part in its development. He was vice president of the London Tourist Board and chairman of the policy committee of the London Convention Bureau. Speaking in this Chamber in May 1993, he reminded noble Lords that tourism is particularly important to London. That remains equally true today.

The figures confirm it. About 55 per cent. of overseas tourists to the UK stay in London for at least part of their visit. London receives about 17 million visitors a year, of whom around 10 million are from abroad. Spending by visitors is around £4.5 billion. It is estimated that tourism creates some 200,000 jobs; that is to say, around 7 per cent. of London's working population is employed in tourism.

These figures and the evidence of our own eyes confirm that tourism is of great importance to London. There is also a great deal of evidence which suggests that London is crucial to the performance of the nation's tourism industry. Our capital city is one of Britain's greatest assets in attracting overseas visitors and in persuading British people to take a holiday in this country. In every field, London is a world-class city. You can find other cities with shopping as good as

17 Jan 1995 : Column 617

London's. You may find a few places—but not many—which can rival London in the arts and entertainment. Perhaps there is the odd city which can match London's heritage and pageantry. But I doubt that any city in the world can offer all of these in the way that London can.

The Government fully recognise the importance both of tourism to the capital and of London to UK tourism as a whole. In November my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage announced that an additional £2 million would be provided to the British Tourist Authority over the next two financial years in order to fund projects which will improve the promotion of London in overseas markets. It will not be provided to the CBI, as the noble Lord, Lord Walpole, suggested. The money will be paid to the British Tourist Authority, which, in partnership with the London Tourist Board, will fund projects to market London.

Lord Walpole: My Lords, I referred to a separate grant to the London Tourist Board but perhaps it was to the BTA. My comment about the CBI related to benchmarking.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I apologise if I misheard the noble Lord but I wished to clear the matter up. The money will be matched by the BTA from its existing resources to create a total public sector contribution of £4 million to the initiative. The work will be taken forward in partnership with the London Tourist Board and London First, who aim to bring in matching funding from the private sector. The partner organisations will have at their disposal a fund of up to £8 million over two years to add to the already substantial resources which promote London to potential overseas visitors.

The benefits of this promotion will not be confined to the south-east. London is an important gateway to the rest of the country. Many of those overseas visitors who are attracted to London will visit other parts of the UK during their stay. We want to encourage more to do so in order that the benefits from tourism can be more widely shared.

My right honourable friend's initiative will make possible a very significant improvement in the promotion of London. I believe that the benefits from that work will be shared by the whole of the United Kingdom tourist industry.

It is easy to under-estimate the very significant contribution of tourism to the economy of the United Kingdom as a whole. In 1993, the UK received almost 19.2 million visitors from overseas, a 3 per cent. increase on the previous year. Expenditure by overseas residents amounted to £8.9 billion, a 13 per cent. increase on 1992. Figures for the first nine months of 1994 are even more encouraging, with overseas visits up by 6 per cent. on the same period in the previous year and expenditure rising by 8 per cent. Taken as a whole, the tourist industry generates an annual turnover of about £33 billion, which is 5 per cent. of this country's gross domestic product. And it creates an estimated 1.5 million jobs.

Perhaps even more importantly, tourism is, and is likely to remain, an industry with considerable potential for growth. Employment in the sector has increased by

17 Jan 1995 : Column 618

30 per cent. during the past 10 years, compared with a growth of 5 per cent. for all industries. And it is widely predicted that by the year 2000 tourism will be the world's biggest industry.

The noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, claimed that lack of government support had prohibited the industry from growing at a similar rate to tourism in other countries. The noble Lord produced figures. The calculation was based on the premise that Britain could have maintained its 1980 share of the domestic market. However, since that date there has been a vast increase in the number of people able to afford foreign travel. The market has utterly changed and other northern European countries have experienced exactly the same trend. In fact, Germany's balance of payments deficit is more than four times that of this country. There is also little evidence that government promotional spend has a great deal of effect on large-scale trends. A recent world tourism organisation survey found that amounts spent by governments on promotion bore little relation to their country's tourism earnings.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page