HL Deb 24 July 1984 vol 455 cc159-62

2.44 p.m.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many tourists visited the United Kingdom during April this year, and what was the comparable figure for last year.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords. provisional figures from the International Passenger Survey show 1,190,000 visits were made to the United Kingdom by overseas residents during April this year compared with 1,026,000 in April 1983; an increase of 16 per cent. In the first four months of 1984 there were 3,430,000 visits—12½ per cent. higher than in the same period last year.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that reply, which I think was fairly evident to us in moving about, or trying to do so, in central London. Could my noble friend tell us whether he has any idea how many jobs are directly or indirectly dependent on the tourist industry?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, because of the diversity of the tourist industry there are problems in establishing an accurate figure, but it is estimated that tourism provides about 1 million jobs, some 30 per cent. more than the mechanical engineering sector and about the same as the construction industry.

Lord Blyton

My Lords, is the Minister aware that most of the increase in the tourist trade this year is due to the collapse of the pound compared with the dollar?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I certainly cannot agree with the noble Lord in that assertion. Many factors affect the level of incoming visitors. They include such factors as world economics and exchange rates, but more particularly our ability to provide good value for money for the goods and services which the tourist wants to buy.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether we have any breakdown of which countries the visitors come from and whether there has been a substantial change in recent years?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Yes, my Lords, I have a breakdown of visitors. In 1983. 22.7 per cent. came from North America; 46.1 per cent. from the European Community, 11.5 per cent. from other western European states; and from the rest of the world, 19.7 per cent.

Lord Bruce of Donington

My Lords, would the noble Lord kindly repeat the figure for the first four months of this year? I did not quite follow it when he announced it.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, in the first four months of 1984 there were 3,430,000 visits.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, could my noble friend say whether there is a distinct barrier as between English language students and tourists? Is it right that nearly a million people came to study the English language and that some of these, like the Libyans, have stayed on first as tourists and then domiciled here? Is there a distinct difference between these two categories?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I would think that there would be a distinct difference, and I cannot tell the noble Lord what that difference might be.

Lord Wallace of Coslany

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that while journeying through London at the present time it is a refreshing change to find somebody speaking English? If we go on at the present rate would it not be a good idea to put up signs, "English spoken here"?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, it may be a refreshing change, but one has to consider that tourism makes a considerable contribution to our balance of trade. In fact, £3.6 billion were earned last year in tourism from foreign visitors.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the steady growth of tourism is indeed good news for those of us who are concerned with the built heritage, the conservation of which largely depends on tourist profits for it to be achieved? Perhaps he would confirm that, in addition to directly connected jobs there are enormous numbers of jobs in publishing, souvenirs, catering, and indeed in construction in this country which are indirectly concerned with tourism.

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. Noble Lords will of course realise that my noble friend, being chairman of the Historic Buildings Commission, has himself made a great impact in the area of tourism. In so far as his last point is concerned, yes, certainly there are fringe effects from tourism in regard to other jobs and job creation. There are probably another half-a-million people employed in that kind of area.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister say what amenities are available for disabled visitors both in hotel accommodation and otherwise?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I regret that I cannot tell the noble Baroness in detail about amenities, but the English Tourist Board take an interest in this area. They have produced a number of books and booklets which have a wide distribution. In addition, both the English Tourist Board and the British Tourist Association support the Holiday Care Service, and they have also produced an information booklet which is distributed through the international offices of that organisation.

Lord Diamond

My Lords, is the measure of the benefit of tourism only pounds, shillings and pence? Is it not the case that there is great benefit from people learning to understand one another, seeing one another's habits, seeing how people live in their own homes and their own countries? Is it not a much wider point than the Minister indicated in agreeing to a Labour intervention?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, any exchange, whether for holidays, vacations or tourism, that leads to a better understanding of the peoples of different nations must have an overall benefit. I quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Diamond.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, the noble Lord indicated what was earned by foreign tourists coming to Britain; will he tell us the comparable figure arising from Britons who go abroad for their holidays? Could not more be encouraged to take advantage of the many benefits of holidays at home?

Lord Lucas of Chilworth

My Lords, I cannot answer the first question of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, without notice, but English tourism in Great Britain last year provided £5.3 billion worth of revenue to the industry.