Thursday December 05, 2013
As a concept, ‘free’ should be abolished.
This was just one of a number of interesting and sometimes provocative comments made by panellists at The Tourism Society’s President’s Debate which explored ‘the pros and cons of the predicted continuing rise in international visitors’. The event was held on Tuesday 3rd December at the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania, London. Following opening remarks by Her Excellency the Ambassador for Lithuania, the four panellists were introduced by the event chairman, Lord Thurso MP, President of The Tourism Society.
It was agreed by all that tourism has the ability to connect people to both nature and a country’s unique heritage whilst also leading to more fluid, global communications. The government was denounced for its lack of both a tourism policy and heritage policy despite the fact that tourism remained the UK’s third largest industry. The future of Heathrow Airport and its five year plans for improvements to passenger experience were discussed including information about their new terminal and the distribution of free internet access across the airport.
Hitting the audience hard with a series of stark figures, Graham Pickett (Deloitte UK) outlined the levels of debt (£1.4 trillion) and interest that the UK is currently facing, while remaining cautiously optimistic about the economic recovery. In light of this it was interesting to hear that traveller numbers to the UK have not been hindered with Giles Price (Heathrow Airport) reporting 71 million passengers passing through Heathrow airport this year alone. To accommodate this, Price stressed a greater need to invest in the refurbishment of airport facilities and spend more time on providing better services. With £2-3 billion put towards improving passenger experience the airport is certainly making progress.
There was a call for a more stringent approach to the distribution of tourists in order for less well-known heritage sites to be discovered. With great alacrity, Loyd Grossman (The Heritage Alliance) raised the point that heritage is a fixed and fragile resource that has to be managed accordingly. The problems of ‘vanishing’ Venice, the rise of the low-value day tripper and the continual damage from cruise ship anchors and sewage to coral reefs were all cited as the heavy damages caused by both physical developments and the over-use of resources. Jim Dixon (Peak District National Park Authority) concluded that in order to manage the potential impacts of the growing number of tourists, business and destinations would need to adopt a sustainable approach.
Tourism Society Chairman David Curtis-Brignell FTS commented: "A key issue that the debate raised is the concern that Britain will lose out to international competitors as a result of the continued delay in solving the location of London's much needed runway capacity. With Heathrow capped at 72m and the possibility of no new runway before 2030, inbound tourism could stagnate without drastic short term action such as utilising regional airports to take the growth in arrivals.”
For further information, please contact:
Blanche Fitzgerald on 0207 269 9693 or 0207 269 9693
Notes to editors:
Lord Thurso MP– President, The Tourism Society
Graham Pickett – Global Head of Aviation and Travel
Giles Price – Director of Development for Heathrow airport
Loyd Grossman – Chairman, The Heritage Alliance
Jim Dixon – Chief Executive, Peak District National Park Authority