Tourism Society Symposium opens International Festival for Business

Wednesday June 04, 2014


Tourism Society Symposium opens International Festival for Business

As the International Festival for Business in Liverpool opened this week the Tourism Society’s Symposium was the first event of the 6 week programme. The Symposium brought together a line-up of prominent speakers from the arts and tourism sectors to debate the role of tourism and culture in creating economic success. The event was supported by the DCMS, the Arts Council England, VisitBritain, VisitEngland and UKinbound.

In his keynote address, John Kampfner, Director, Creative Industries Federation, emphasised the need for world class ‘ambition’ in the arts if they are to have transformative effects on communities and economies. He believes there is a lack of ambition amongst policymakers that constantly seek support from central government. Kampfner gave the example of politicians extolling the virtues of Brand Britain’s creativity and arts scene when abroad but becoming tongue-tied on the subject on home soil. He went on to say that a cultural attraction does not have to be huge to be an international destination and it is vitally important to be developed with and from grass roots in order to be successful. Also, the turnaround horizons need to be lengthened and keeping faith in the direction of travel is critical. According to Kampfner, elements of innovation, entrepreneurship, public engagement, civic pride and ambition have to be combined to achieve success for cultural attractions and events moving forward.

Aptly billed as ‘Mr Blue Sky’ in his session, Tourism Society Director, Ken Robinson CBE, presented a highly thought provoking and in part, controversial Society commissioned Think Tank paper on Cultural Tourism. He urged arts and tourism professionals to think only big thoughts but to always bear in mind the need to ensure projects are economically sustainable. Robinson posed the question whether cultural tourism is good or bad and went on to give examples from both points of view. He added that ensuring net ‘additionality’ (the economic benefit over and above normal visitor numbers) should be a cornerstone of cultural tourism projects.

Ken Robinson then joined a panel chaired by Deidre Wells OBE, CEO of UKinbound and including Claire McColgan MBE, Director of Culture, Liverpool City Council; Jon Pywell, Assistant Head of Service City Culture and Hull City of Culture 2017 Lead and Dr Beatriz Garcia, Head of Research, Institute of Cultural Capital, University of Liverpool. Points raised in the Think Tank paper were debated and it was generally agreed that it is vitally important to keep local communities at the heart of cultural tourism projects as there is evidence this can help them regain their confidence and grow their aspirations.

The Symposium’s afternoon programme saw John Kampfner returning to the stage to interview fashion gurus Clara Mercer, Head of Marketing, British Fashion Council and Hilary Riva OBE, former CEO, British Fashion Council in a session entitled ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’. Responding to questions on the value of fashion to the economy, Hilary Riva explained that some £250 million was generated plus a further £200 million of orders annually. However, there were also ‘soft’ benefits such as the launching of careers at London Fashion Week and showcasing creativity. Clara Mercer highlighted the need for London Fashion Week to become the best of its kind in the global marketplace. She went on to say that the digital age has proved invaluable in the promotion of London Fashion Week, likewise partnerships with BAFTA, The BRITS etc.

The event concluded with Liverpool and London based Poet in Residence, Chris McCabe, who drew together the key themes of the day in a unique work specially commissioned for the Symposium.

Following the Symposium, Sandra Matthews-Marsh, Chairman of the Tourism Society said: “The arts and tourism together are the rocket fuel of this country's economy and are a significant driver in the wellbeing of local communities. The Symposium provided strong evidence of the economic impact of arts and tourism led development strategies showing the transformative effect of reinventing places. Liverpool is one such example and it requires determined policy making and partnership balanced with the powerful effect of sense of place and empowering communities to be ambitious.

"It is disappointing that on the day of such a positive outlook for tourism being predicted at the Symposium, it is reported that the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is considering the scrapping of the Leisure and Tourism GCSE. This unwittingly sends a negative message to tourism enterprises that are part of the bedrock of this country's recovery and future employment.”

She added: “Time and time again these sectors have shown themselves capable of providing long lived career paths to young people which has created one in three new jobs in the last two years.  The Tourism Society urges the Education Secretary to consider these factors when deliberating on a decision with his advisors.”



Editors’ note:

  • Over 20 experts spoke at the Tourism Symposium and a full report together with images of the event are available on request from:

Blanche Fitzgerald
Tourism Society
T: 0207 269 9693