Friday March 13, 2015
13th MARCH 2015
BoBI 2015: Politicians should walk and talk tourism!
The Tourism Society’s traditional Question Time event returned on March 11th this week as the opening seminar at the Best of Britain and Ireland show. With the general election just two months away, this year’s panel was headed by Tourism Minister Helen Grant MP and included Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Transport Minister, Lord Lee, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tourism, Lord Storey CBE, Leader of Liverpool's European Capital of Culture, and William Cash, UKIP’s Tourism and Heritage spokesman.
Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, chaired the discussion and started proceedings by asking each of the panellists what tourism-related comments they wished to see in the parties’ election manifestos.
Helen Grant MP reiterated tourism’s role as an essential part of the country’s long-term economic plan. She highlighted regional tourism in particular, referring to the recent £10m award for tourism in the north and the £5m awarded to Devon and Cornwall. Work on establishing tougher targets for location, spend and visitor numbers in the regions was already underway.
Lord Lee stated that establishing Double Summer Time would have an immediate impact on business opportunities and revenue. He also felt that including ‘Tourism’ in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s title would be a simple way to show the significance of the sector.
For Gordon Marsden MP the key point was the need for a better understanding of the cross-departmental importance of tourism, with allies in all departments. He added that the wide range of skills that tourism employs enables it to have a significant impact on regeneration, and support for skills development was therefore very important.
Cutting VAT from 20% to 5% was Lord Storey’s policy of choice. The Treasury’s own models have shown that this would give an important boost both to exports and employers.
Speaking for UKIP, William Cash stated that the party had already publicly committed to a reduction in VAT on restorations to listed buildings. He also wanted to see a more sensible approach to the deployment of brown tourism signs, to make them more effective and better focussed, and the development of designated rural conservations areas to protect cherished landscapes.
The debate attracted a capacity audience and ranged widely across subjects including funding for destinations, how to encourage LEPs to take tourism more seriously, and how to get politicians to highlight the importance of tourism’s performance and economic contribution.
Tourism Society Executive Director Gregory Yeoman commented: “This year’s Question Time brought together a very strong panel and it was great to hear such an animated debate. I am sure the politicians were in no doubt as to the topics that mattered most to the packed audience of tourism professionals.”
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Bernard Donoghue FTS, Director, Association of Leading Visitor Attractions
Helen Grant MP, Minister for Tourism
Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Transport Minister, Labour
Lord Lee, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tourism, and Chair, ALVA
Lord Storey CBE, Leader of Liverpool's European Capital of Culture, Liberal Democrat Party
William Cash, Tourism and Heritage spokesman, UKIP
The event was held at The Best of Britain and Ireland Show at the NEC in Birmingham: http://www.bobievent.com/