LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM -- (Marketwire) -- 01/22/13 -- Travelodge CEO Grant Hearn has today written to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Vince Cable, to share a ten-point plan to how DBIS can accelerate the UK's economy by unlocking the potential of one of the UK's fastest growing industries (tourism).
The letter follows on the back of a report commissioned by Travelodge hotels which investigated how the UK tourism industry has performed during the longest recession since the Second World War.
Findings revealed UK tourism is a resilient industry that has outperformed the general economy over the last five years, led the way in terms of employment numbers and increased visitor numbers.
Despite being the fifth largest sector in the UK, tourism is one of the few industries that has continued to grow despite the economic crisis. Whilst GDP grew by 8% from 2007 to 2011, during the same period the tourism industry increased its revenues by 12.6% to more than GBP 40 billion - representing 10% of GDP.
In the letter Mr Hearn makes a case that it is high time policy makers woke up and unlocked the true potential of one of the UK's fastest growing industries.
The ten point plan calls for the Government to move tourism higher up its agenda, and for the sector to be given the status it deserves - by moving it from the Department of Culture Media & Sports to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. As tourism is crucial to economic growth the plan also includes a recommendation for a dedicated taskforce to be created, which is headed up by a tourism minister. This group will be tasked with delivering growth and creating a cross departmental cohesive strategy in cooperation with all tourism partners.
The report also highlights there are huge opportunities to grow tourism particularly when it comes to boosting overseas visitor numbers. Between 2007 and 2011, global tourism grew by 23.4% but during that same period, two million fewer overseas visitors came to the UK, a drop of more than 6%. This means the Government's target for four million new overseas visitors by 2014 will be missed.
The letter also calls for more to be done to increase the UK's competiveness, such as credible tax breaks and steps to reduce the bureaucracy behind the visa application process which keeps so many Chinese visitors away.
At present, Europe and the USA are leading the way in attracting visitors from emerging BRIC markets. For every one Chinese tourist who visits Britain, eight go to Paris and ten visit America. On average the typical Chinese visitor spends GBP 1,600 whilst in the UK. China has a population of 1.3b but in 2011 just 149,000 citizens visited the UK, spending GBP 240m. In contrast the USA attracted 1.1m Chinese visitors in the same year. As well as China, the Government needs to focus on the other BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, and India) too; otherwise we will lose out on future generations of travellers.
Grant Hearn, Travelodge CEO said: "Our report confirms UK tourism has successfully weathered the recession to date and outperformed other key sectors which is great news. However as one of Britain's biggest business sectors it deserves the chance to unlock its true potential. We have a real opportunity within our grasp which can play a significant part in helping our economy to recover; our lack of immediate action is costing jobs, growth and investment. It is in our national economic interest and this has to happen now. We need to be treated as a serious business sector."
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