§ 3.10 p.m.
§ Lord Montagu of Beaulieu rose to call attention to the contribution of tourism to the economy and employment and to the need for Her Majesty's Government to establish and co-ordinate long-term policies to ensure its continuing success; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving this Motion, I welcome the fact that it will be debated concurrently with the one tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, whose Motion deals specifically with the report published last February by the Select Committee on European Affairs entitled Tourism in the European Community, the findings of which I freely endorse, as, I understand, do the Government.
§ Tourism has been debated in this House several times in recent years, reflecting the importance with which the subject is viewed by the House. Inevitably, this debate has attracted many expert speakers, including the two maiden speakers, my noble friend Lord Broughshane and the noble Lord, Lord Feldman, both of whom have special experience in the contribution that the arts make to tourism and whose views I am sure the House is anxious to hear.
§ First, I must declare my interests. It is over 40 years since I first became involved in tourism, when I first opened Beaulieu to the public and created the National Motor Museum. Since then, it has received over 20 million visitors. I have been president of the Southern Tourist Board since its inception, and am currently president of the Tourism Society. I have been involved with the British Tourist Authority since 1952, and was a founder member of the BTA Heritage Committee and the first president of the Historic Houses Association which it spawned. On my frequent overseas promotional trips on behalf of British tourism, I have been made well aware of the importance of the heritage to tourism—a fact borne out by all BTA research. Equally, it is necessary to state that tourism is also very important to Britain's heritage which, without the income it derives from tourism, would be in a very parlous condition today.
§ Throughout the past 30 years, when so many of our traditional industries have suffered decline, tourism, by contrast, has grown consistently in economic importance and the number of jobs it sustains in businesses—large and small—in cities, towns and the countryside throughout Britain. It seems a long time since anyone 1140 dared to describe employment in tourism and other service sector industries as "Mickey Mouse" jobs or even asserted that tourism was not an industry at all. Let me give the House a few facts, in the hope that it will excuse subsequent speakers from the need to repeat them too often.
§ Last year, British tourism earned some £37 billion, including foreign exchange earnings of £13 billion. Tourism now accounts for one-third of all our services sector and is our fifth largest export overall. It employs 1.7 million people—more than the construction industry and five times as many as the car industry. Tourism growth is a global phenomenon and has undoubtedly been one of the country's post-war success stories. Thirty years ago, our earnings from overseas visitors amounted to only £190 million, compared with today's £11.7 billion. Over the same period, with the growth of leisure time and affordable air travel, the number of overseas visitors has increased from just over 3 million to 23.6 million last year. Britain is currently fifth in the world in terms of tourism earnings.
§ In 1969, the growing importance of the industry was recognised in the Development of Tourism Act which created four statutory tourist boards: the British Tourist Authority, responsible for promoting Britain overseas, and the national boards of England, Scotland and Wales. There is, of course, in addition the Northern-Ireland Tourist Board, set up under separate legislation and ably chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan. Unfortunately, he is unable to be with us today, but would have reported that one of the happy results of the recent more peaceful time in Northern Ireland is the substantial growth in tourism in that part of the United Kingdom.
§ The statutory tourist boards, together with the 13 regional tourist boards in England, the area tourist boards in Scotland and the tourism companies in Wales, have all played a crucial role in helping to co-ordinate and improve the performance of the industry, composed mainly as it is of very small businesses.
§ Tourism.is set to be the world's biggest industry by the year 2000, and is becoming increasingly competitive. This afternoon, I should like to look to the future rather than dwell on the past, and to discuss some of the developments I think are needed to ensure that tourism in this country reaches its full potential and continues to make such a large contribution to our economy.
§ I have been most encouraged that this Government have continued to recognised the importance of tourism, not least by maintaining funding for the tourist boards in the latest public spending round, but also by finding extra funds for the promotion of London. I must pay a sincere tribute to the present Secretary of State for National Heritage for the keen interest she has taken in the future fortunes of the industry. I know that she shares my awareness of the essential role that tourism plays in supporting the heritage, our museums, and the arts and culture which are vital areas of our national life.
§ I have just quoted some encouraging figures about the tourism industry. However, some figures are less impressive, and should give us all pause for thought. 1141 Between 1980 and 1990, international tourism to the UK grew at an annual rate of 5.7 per cent. That sounds good, until you compare it with the highest growth areas—East Asia and the Pacific—where the average annual growth was an amazing 15 per cent. The House will see the scale of competition we are up against and the relative success of our performance to date.
§ Important as international tourism is to the UK, which is what so many people think of when tourism is mentioned, domestic tourism is even more vital to this country and is many times bigger in terms of earnings and visitor nights than overseas business. Very few tourist operations can survive on income from overseas visitors alone, and we ignore the importance of domestic tourism at our peril. Over the past 10 years, the balance of spending by British residents on overseas and home holidays has completely reversed. In 1983, less than half the money spent by the British on holidays went on holidays abroad. By 1993, well over half the money flowed overseas, stimulated by the well-organised and more cheaply priced package holiday business. The situation has worsened further since then, and we are currently running a deficit averaging over £4 billion per year on the tourism trade account.
§ No longer can we rest on our laurels and assume that people will automatically wish to take their holidays here. Domestic and overseas visitors have to be better informed about Britain and persuaded that this country offers what they want in a holiday, at a price they can afford and which they think offers good value for money. The Government, the tourist boards and the tourism industry all have a part to play.
§ The Government will continue to have a crucial role in ensuring tourism's continuing success, both directly and through funding the tourist boards. Apart from setting the right economic climate for growth, I should like to see the Department of National Heritage acting as an active champion of tourism in Whitehall, making sure that tourism's needs are taken into account when other policy areas, such as transport and planning, are being discussed. So often the needs of tourism appear not to be adequately considered. I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, when he had ministerial responsibility for tourism, set up an interdepartmental committee to ensure that tourism's interests were not neglected—but that seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. I should like to see it revived.
§ I shall also refer briefly to the work of the tourist boards. Overall, they do a good job, but there are some areas which need addressing. The British Tourist Authority, as usual, continues to do excellent work overseas, as I know from my visits abroad and experience of its work and reputation in all our major markets. Each year it picks up more accolades for its work—the BTA has been voted by the trade as the "top tourist office" in countries as far apart as Australia, the US and Ireland; and most recently it won the prestigious Best Tourist Office in Europe award at the International Travel trade fair in Berlin. The BTA produces excellent value for money for taxpayers. Independent research has shown that £757 million of our tourism earnings from overseas was a direct result of BTA activities; or, put another way, the return to the 1142 economy is £23 for every £1 of BTA's grant-in-aid from government. Without the BTA, the 200,000 or so small operators in the British tourism industry would find it almost impossible to promote what are, in effect, critical "export" markets, particularly in Japan and other fast-growing Near and Far East markets.
§ In the new markets, in the face of intense international competition, it is vital that our promotional efforts are co-ordinated under a British banner, as happens currently through the BTA. I should be very concerned if the Labour Party's proposals for Scottish and Welsh devolution resulted in further fragmentation of that effort and a consequent weakening of the British image overseas. It would be detrimental not only for Britain as a whole, but particularly for Scotland and Wales.
§ The current statutory tourist board structure is no longer ideal. While it works well in most activities most of the time, that is not always so, particularly as there is no means of achieving agreement on all vital matters.
§ Moreover, Britain's tourism actually has no undisputed leader. Despite the much welcomed commitment to tourism of the Secretary of State for National Heritage, and also my noble friend Lord Inglewood, she is only too well aware that no individual can speak for tourism for Britain as a whole, as the administration and budgets of tourism in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are administered by their respective Secretaries of State.
§ The independence of the national boards can cause unnecessary differences in essential aspects of the industry, such as research and quality standards, when, to serve best the needs of British industry, greater co-ordination is essential.
§ I do not know how many noble Lords present are familiar with the fact that the grant-in-aid to the English Tourist Board, which also has to fund essential services carried out by English regional boards, has been cut quite savagely over recent-years from over £23 million in 1988–1989 to only £10 million in the last and current years. Perversely, the Scottish and Welsh Tourist Boards over the same period of time have had their budgets increased. It is difficult to see the logic of treating parts of Great Britain so differently. The problems of attracting visitors, stimulating investment and reducing seasonality are no different in, say, Cornwall or Northern England than they are in West Wales or rural Scotland.
§ The reduction in the ETB's grant-in-aid has inevitably resulted in cuts in its work; for example, the reduction in support for the Tourist Information Centre. Funding for the English regional tourist boards has also suffered. I am convinced that tourism can produce such great returns that the relatively small amounts of additional funding necessary to restore the cuts would pay handsome dividends in jobs and economic benefits.
§ However, I am concerned also that the structure of the English regional boards is no longer working as well as it used to. I am aware that the ETB and regional boards have been looking at the structure and remit of the regions and the division of responsibilities between regions and the centre. But they have not yet, as far as I know, come to any conclusions. Since the regional 1143 boards were established, local authority tourism activity has increased markedly. Most councils now have their own designated tourism officer. In the private sector there are many locally based marketing consortia. But they do not relate easily to the regional boards or their membership structure. We need a new system which will harness the strength of all those involved in tourism. Any changes must ensure more efficient and better co-ordinated central services. Although some favour a system of fewer larger boards—for instance, four boards covering the North, the Midlands, the South, and London—it is unlikely that such large areas would encourage the active participation of small independent businesses. It is unlikely that Brighton, Bournemouth, and Torquay, which are naturally in competition, would fit comfortably in such a large area. I should like to hear the Minister's views on that subject.
§ I must mention also the important role that local authorities play in tourism. They are responsible for planning, roads, signposting, and, in most cases, the funding and operation of tourist information centres—that excellent network upon which the visitor relies so heavily. I know it is of great concern to the tourist industry that local authority spending constraints have threatened TICs, either through shorter opening hours or sometimes closing down altogether. Such front-line services must be maintained at all costs. One of the keys to our continued success is the achievement of high standards in everything we offer—accommodation, service, attractions, the heritage and the environment. I should like briefly to mention four: accommodation, service, attractions, and heritage.
§ Accommodation classification and grading schemes are one example where, to date, it has not been possible to achieve a fully effective result in the board's efforts to raise standards. Sadly, there are too many establishments that do not measure up to the requirements of today's tourist. Some are in London, where in 1994 nearly half the overseas visitors considered that hotel accommodation represented bad value for money. Other substandard accommodation is to be found in seaside resorts, where the recent problems with DSS claimants in hotels is symptomatic of that problem. Some accommodation is undoubtedly surplus and unsuitable for economic refurbishment, but the Government, together with the tourist boards, should give attention to how those establishments can be eased out of the tourist market, and perhaps also their residents. However, before those desirable changes can be achieved, we need a co-ordinated approach from the national boards to their crown classification schemes and harmonisation with the motoring organisations' well-recognised stars rating system. In a recent survey for the Tourism Society, a majority of recipients favoured a statutory approach to the registration of accommodation—as already happens in Northern Ireland—coupled with a voluntary grading in order to help both improve standards and make it easier for the consumer to select the most appropriate accommodation. Will the Minister comment on the Tourism Society's proposals and let us know what he thinks?1144
§ Following the improvements of recent years, there are many establishments of all kinds—and I count Beaulieu as one of these—where the standards of service offered match those anywhere in the world. Much first-rate work has been done on training in the tourist industry—by individual companies, by hotel and training companies, by tourist boards through their Welcome Host initiative, and through the development of national vocational qualifications. Unfortunately, that is not enough. Regrettably, there are still too many people operating tourism businesses in Britain who appear not to consider training valuable and worth spending time and money on.
§ I do not have all the answers on training but I am sure that it is an area we should all—Government, educational establishments, everybody—take very seriously. Our industry will not flourish if our service standards fall below those of our competitors.
§ Heritage is one aspect of tourism in which our visitors have high expectations. It is known to be the principal feature that draws our overseas visitors. For many years now the BTA Heritage Committee has valiantly tried to co-ordinate the separate interests of historic buildings and so on. The time has come for that committee to be given a larger and independent role and recognition by government that it speaks for our heritage. It would make a major contribution to focusing heritage policy by evidencing problems and co-ordinating all our efforts. I seem to have run out of time, so I hope that the future speakers will cover all the points. I am sure the Government and I will look with great interest at what is said. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.27 p.m.
§ Lord Elibank
My Lords, my first duty and pleasure is to thank the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, for allowing us to add our Motion to his. I hope he will be rewarded by the breadth and variety of views that the speakers in the debate will furnish today.
I should also thank our specialist adviser, Mr. Graham Wason, and our clerk, Mr. Andrew Mylne, who both contributed very largely to the production of this report. Finally, like my noble friend Lord Montagu, I welcome our two maiden speakers to this debate and wish them well in their speeches. We look forward with keen interest to their views.
It may be helpful to the House if I said a few words about the background to our report. The Maastricht Treaty, in an addendum, ordered the Commission to produce a report on tourism, among other things, with a view to considering whether a special extra treaty should be added to the Maastricht Treaty. They were told to produce it by 1996, and they have done that with perhaps a year to spare. It will be a subject for debate at the Intergovernmental Conference, and for this reason, my committee decided it was a matter of some importance at this time.
The Commission's report, the Green Paper, ended up with four options which it left to associations and governments to make a choice from in their decision-making process. Those four options, which I shall outline only very briefly, were as follows. Option 1145 I was the status quo minus, with little or nothing done to add to the Tourism Unit's responsibility; Option 2 was the status quo plus, with a modest further action plan; Option 3 envisaged some addition to the Tourism Unit's responsibility and greater involvement with other units in the directorates; and Option 4 implied a good deal of intervention on the part of the Commission in the organisation of tourism within the Union. Option 4 implied, though it did not say specifically, that a new addition to the treaty would be the most adequate way to see the matter through.
So much for the background. Let me say a few words about tourism in Europe. The first thing to say about it is the size of the parameters. Tourism includes everything from the humblest bed-and-breakfast accommodation to large airlines, large hotel chains and travel agents. It also has many other facets. That makes it extremely difficult to get a grasp on tourism, even though every particular branch of the industry is represented by its own association. So statistics about tourism must be treated with a certain degree of caution.
The overwhelming feature of the tourism industry, as my noble friend Lord Montagu pointed out, is its buoyancy. For instance, tourism is a bigger earner in this country than the petroleum industry. It must be treated with a great deal of respect and interest. Tourism is also a notable employer of people, in an age in which unemployment is a key issue. Seven per cent. of the workforce in the United Kingdom is involved in tourism compared with six per cent. in Europe. That is a very substantial number of people. What is more, it is a benign employer. If people have energy, drive and initiative but perhaps rather mediocre academic qualifications, in the tourist industry they can enjoy a flourishing career. In the same way, there are certain areas in Europe—mostly rural areas—where little or no employment is possible. But where there is a monument or site of national or international interest, there is quite a substantial amount of employment around such a site, with guides, accommodation, transport facilities and so forth.
I pass on fairly rapidly to the main thrust of our report; namely, an investigation of the powers and responsibilities of the Tourism Unit in the Commission. It comprises something in the order of 20 people, including secretaries, and is notably under-powered for the work that it has to do. I suppose that it has two main responsibilities. One is a routine responsibility. to arrange seminars, collate statistics and disseminate information. It probably does that quite adequately. But by far its most important role is liaison with the other directorates. There, we felt, was a notable gap. Other directorates dispose of very substantial funds, such as structural funds and other types of money. That makes them very powerful spenders either in their own right or indirectly through governments. It is on that expenditure that tourism and the Tourism Unit should have a very marked impact; but at the moment it does not have one at all. So the unit needs to be bolstered in numbers, possibly increased modestly in budget and given a much greater standing in the European Community.
1146 We felt that the obvious way to do that would be to raise the status of the Tourism Unit to that of a directorate. In itself that would involve no increase in manpower but would make it much easier for the unit to deal on more or less equal terms with other directorates.
There are one or two other points which, because of time constraints, I can only mention briefly. One is the sustainability of tourism. The committee was considerably involved with that and perplexed. The problem with sustainability is that large coachloads of tourists slowly destroy almost any site that they visit over a period of years—maybe centuries. Nonetheless, it is very difficult to say to any potential tourist, "You must not go there." It is very difficult to control access in a way that is felt to be just and proper, but it is very necessary. It can only be done on an ad hoc basis, site by site. But the responsibility of national governments and national tourist boards is very great in that respect.
Our conclusion was that we could support the Government's view on most of the Green Paper; but we recommend boosting the powers and authority of the Tourism Unit to make it much more effective and to enable it to do the tasks that we feel should be undertaken.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Lord Borrie
My Lords, in the course of giving evidence to the Select Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, Mr Lyndon Harrison, a Member of the European Parliament, said that because tourism is associated with leisure, it is not normally considered a serious industry. He thought that that was a huge psychological problem, and I agree with him.
The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, is to be congratulated on initiating the debate and drawing attention to the major contribution that tourism in this country makes to our economy as a whole and indeed to employment. He has given the figures and, since he warned me and other speakers, I shall not—gladly I do not—repeat them. Tourism is. a serious industry and, as the noble Lord indicated, an industry which is very important in regard to small and medium-sized enterprises. We all know that that sector of employment across the economy as a whole is perhaps the major potential for new jobs in this country. That certainly applies to tourism.
Clearly, tourism is much more important in some regions of the country than in others. By way of example, I shall refer to Devon and Cornwall. In recent years that region has suffered considerable structural decline in many of its traditional industries, such as fishing and agriculture, as well as defence and tourism. Of all those industries, tourism offers genuine potential for revitalisation and regeneration for the future.
Unfortunately, although Devon and Cornwall have been designated Assistance Areas, which is an implicit recognition of their economic problems, Regional Selective Assistance for tourism is not made available. I am not sure what the point is of being designated an Assistance Area, if the very industry that is so likely to contribute to employment prospects in the future is ruled out for assistance purposes.
1147 I am a member of my party's Regional Policy Commission. In evidence to us, the West Country Development Corporation pointed out that in Cornwall tourism represents 24 per cent. of GDP and in Devonshire it is 14 per cent. That compares with the relatively modest 6 per cent. for Wales. Yet the Welsh Tourist Board generously contributes grants and loans. Devon and Cornwall receive nothing for tourism. That does not seem to me to make a lot of economic sense, nor is it equitable. Let me cite the all-party Trade and Industry Select Committee in another place, which last year said:If this is an appropriate use of public funds in Wales, we can see no reason why the same should not apply in England".The West Country Development Corporation is concerned that the recommendation which the House of Commons Select Committee made last year calling for equity of treatment throughout the United Kingdom has been rejected by Her Majesty's Government in their official response to the Select Committee report. It is not alone in this concern. My commission has had evidence from East Sussex County Council, which told us that the case for assistance to combat long-term structural decline in the tourism industry in the coastal towns of Sussex is surely just as compelling as for other areas seeking assistance to cope with the decline in mining, shipbuilding or manufacturing industries. The fact that some industries produce visible outputs and others invisibles is surely not a sensible basis for discrimination.
So why did the Government reject the recommendation of the House of Commons Select Committee that the same grants and loans should be available for tourism projects in England and Scotland as in Wales? The Government's response was in two sentences. Sentence number one:The Government does not agree with the Committee's recommendation".Sentence number two:Circumstances vary to such an extent throughout Great Britain that the Government does not accept the case for a uniform set of grants".I do not read the House of Commons Select Committee recommendation as asking for uniformity; neither the word nor the notion appears in it. It was seeking more equity, more rationality, compared with the current disparate treatment of different regions of the United Kingdom.
The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, quoted the Development of Tourism Act 1969 as being a key Act in the development of tourism. Each of the national tourist boards has the legal power to improve tourist amenities and facilities under that legislation, but only the Welsh Tourist Board appears to have implemented this. All credit to the Welsh Tourist Board. But I wonder whether Her Majesty's Government, and the Minister today perhaps, would indicate whether there are plans to ensure a more rational, more equitable, less capricious dispensation of assistance to tourism and the tourism industry in our country, for the benefit, as is mentioned in the Motion, of the economy of the United Kingdom and the creation of jobs in our country.
1148 The Motion refers to the need for Her Majesty's Government to establish and co-ordinate long-term policies to ensure continuing success of tourism in this country. The Government must invest in and support the industry's own estimate of creating an extra 130,000 jobs by 1999 and up to 300,000 new jobs in the next 10 years.
Visitors to this country—the customers of the United Kingdom tourist industry—whether they come from abroad or not, will demand increasingly high standards. If those high standards are to be delivered, then the men and women who work in the industry will need to reach the highest standards of training. Government help to that end will surely have the pay-off of even better contributions to our UK economy than the tourist industry presently provides.
Investment, therefore, must include investment in people. As the Director-General of the CBI, Mr. Adair Turner, said recently:Improving economic performance will only be sustained by improving the quality of the workforce".
§ 3.45 p.m.
§ Lord McNally
My Lords, I speak without the eminence in or experience of tourism displayed by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. However, I do so using my full geographical title of Lord McNally, of Blackpool.
Blackpool, my home town, gave me experience of what I call the sharp end of tourism. I once cooked 23 hundredweight of chips in a single afternoon; I spent a season serving coffee at the top of Blackpool Tower, an effort which gave me an article in the local paper headlined "Tower Top Tommy"; I appeared at the Tower Circus with Charlie Cairoli and in the Tower Ballroom with Reginald Dixon. I should say that I was selling ice cream while Charlie was throwing custard pies and Reginald was playing the organ. Nevertheless, it meant that I was brought up from childhood with the clear understanding that tourism was a real industry that provided jobs and created opportunity. I shall not, as the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, warned us, repeat all the statistics, but I do endorse them.
In general, the opinion abroad is that tourism is the poor relation of Whitehall—under-prioritised and undervalued, and a responsibility often given to a Minister because of the beauty of his name (Strathclyde, Ullswater, Inglewood) rather than for other reasons. We shall certainly be looking for signs that the Government will give tourism a high priority when the Minister replies.
Let me make five points. As I come from the north west, one point might seem slightly strange. I endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, said about support for tourism in London. London is our national flagship for tourism. It is by far the greatest magnet for overseas visitors, and it is essential that visitors to London come to a place that is safe, clean, has good transport and gives good value for money. Value for money is the same whether it be at the Ritz or a small hotel: it is whether you feel you have been well served and are happy and contented. I commend the work that London First has done in this respect.
1149 As to the natural environment—another of our great national assets referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Elibank—beware of the NIMBY factor in attacking tourism. There is a very good case to be made that it is the spur and impetus of tourism which in many cases has helped to improve the natural environment and to protect it because there has been a motive so to do.
There are three personal experiences of the tourist industry I would refer to. From each of those experiences I would draw lessons. My home town of Blackpool is one of our Victorian resorts. We underestimate the attraction and potential attraction of the traditional British seaside resort because, even with all the changes of recent years, Blackpool remains one of Europe's most successful resorts. It remains so by adapting to change and taste and by continuing to innovate. The town's motto is "Progress", and it is living up to that motto today by building the biggest big-dipper in Europe, just as our Victorian forefathers lived up to it by having the imagination to build a copy of the Eiffel Tower.
But those Victorian seaside resorts do need help, as the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, indicated. Many of them have big problems with seasonal unemployment and some of them have a more than average share of social problems which need to be resolved. Part of any strategy for tourism should he a recognition of the assets that we have in our seaside resorts.
Another experience I had was working on Merseyside and finding the real potential for tourism in the big cities. Liverpool is often a target for criticism, but I urge noble Lords to go out and look at the tourist opportunity in Liverpool. It combines architecture, the cultural assets of the city, the restoration of Albert Dock and the Maritime Museum and the reclamation of canals and waterways around the city. It is extremely interesting and valuable. What Liverpool has done with great success has been mirrored in many other cities. I was watching a television programme last night which pointed out that Sheffield now has more tourist visitors than Cambridge. Birmingham and Manchester and others are finding the value of tourism as a source of economic activity.
The town I now live in, St. Albans, is a small town with a great historical Roman and medieval heritage. Its local authority is taking the initiative in small but effective ways. It is improving the signage around the town; operating an anti-litter campaign; providing good contacts between the railway station and areas of visitor focus and ensuring that more publicity is given to it in London and other major centres of tourism.
It is clear that there is no single tourist industry. The efforts that a town like Blackpool has to make in refurbishing the tramways or improving the piers, or a St. Albans in ensuring that its history is understood and well visited, or a Liverpool in exploiting its industrial past and its architecture, are all different. Lord help us at the thought of some European directive being produced concerning those matters. As one who believes both in Europe and in subsidiarity, I also believe that tourism is very much a local initiative. However, it needs a framework 1150 within which to operate. It needs a partnership between government and the private sector. Again, one of the lessons I learnt in the areas I visited was how successfully the private sector has been able to respond when supported by the local authority or regional initiatives.
Tourism also needs cohesion—another word that is in the report and should be in the Minister's mind—of government policy. The Government should keep tourism in mind when looking at transport or environment policy and also in looking at taxation policy. Tourism also needs adequate promotion to make sure that people are aware of the great asset that we have in our tourist industry. If we discovered in the North Sea an asset similar to the one that we already have in tourism, the Government would be rushing to respond.
Finally, I fully endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Borne, said regarding commitment to training and quality. The heart of tourism is satisfied customers, and satisfied customers depend on quality. If we have cohesion in policy and the broad framework of government support, we have in Britain a tourist industry, both large and small, that is able to respond vigorously and give us both the jobs and the prosperity that flow from successful tourism.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Lord Broughshane
My Lords, in venturing to address your Lordships for the first time I felt that I must wait until I could find something in which I had some personal interest and experience. As a new boy—if one can use that word for an octogenarian—I must crave the indulgence of the House for anything which is not strictly in accordance with its rules. However, I do not think your Lordships will find me guilty of lack of brevity.
Until I retired recently, I had the pleasure of working for almost 30 years at the-Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, which I feel your Lordships will agree can inevitably be classified as a major tourist attraction. In the course of my duties I was in a position to observe the large number of visitors from abroad who attended our performances. In talking to many of them, I became convinced that a main reason for their deciding to visit these islands was to go to our theatres, attend our operas, see our ballets and listen to our concerts, for all of which we are rightly internationally famous, despite the somewhat meagre financial assistance provided by the state, regardless of the colour of the government in power.
While I am unable to offer precise statistics, it is generally accepted that other countries—I have in mind France, Germany and Holland particularly—place the arts rather higher on the agenda of financial assistance than we do ourselves. They thus ensure substantial employment for their artists, musicians, singers and dancers and, what is more relevant to today's debate, make it possible for tickets for performances to he sold at prices more attractive to foreigners.
Anything that can be done to draw attention to the vital part played by the arts is infinitely worth while, not merely on the grounds of entertainment, which seems to 1151 have an unfortunate flavour in the minds of some people who think it is not quite right to be entertained—with which I totally disagree—and general education, but also in increasing revenue through the employment of the artists themselves (thus making it less likely that they will make a claim on the state) and for all those associated with them, their work in museums, theatres and concert halls, and also in attracting tourists, which is the main purpose of my speaking. I therefore heartily welcome and endorse the Motion proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Baroness Young
My Lords, it is my great privilege and pleasure to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Broughshane, on his maiden speech. He comes to your Lordships' House with a most distinguished record from the Second World War, where he was in the RAF volunteer reserves and was awarded both the DSO and DFC. There are few these days who are privileged to wear both those decorations.
As the noble Lord said, he is a founder member of the Friends of Covent Garden. It was valuable to hear his point regarding the vital role of the arts in the whole of the tourist industry defined in its widest sense. I am sure that I speak for all of us in saying that we look forward to hearing him on many occasions in the future. Perhaps I may say also that we look forward to hearing the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Feldman.
I thank too my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu for introducing this important debate this afternoon. As he rightly said, travel and tourism will be the world's largest industry by the turn of the century. It is therefore of great value that we should debate this issue today, for it is extremely important that the United Kingdom should share in its growth. I shall not repeat all the statistics which have been given, but they were very welcome.
I listened not only to my noble friend but to the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, about the importance of the tourist industry. It often appears as a most disparate collection of small businesses and enterprises, interspersed with some very large and very important enterprises. Therefore, it is not coherent as most industries are. As a consequence, I believe that it has often not been thought of as an industry at all, but it is and it has a major role to play in our lives today. I believe that this debate is a major contribution to the recognition of its importance.
Perhaps I may also say how much we value the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Elibank. I read his report with great interest. I believe that everyone will agree with the points which have been made and I shall return to those in a moment.
I should perhaps myself declare an interest—not that I have any financial interest at all in the tourist industry—but I have a relative in the tourist business.
There are three points that I would like to make. The first has already been referred to, and it concerns the importance of the tourist industry in the creation of jobs. We are all concerned about unemployment today, but 1152 here is a growth industry. It supports about 1.5 million jobs, which is 6 per cent. of the labour force, and about 187,000 people who are self-employed. It is a growth industry. I found it quite sad reading some articles and seeing a television programme which suggested that many young people still do not think of service industry work as offering proper jobs at all. They are seen as non-jobs in a candyfloss society. That could not be further from the truth. It is important that all of us tell young people that here are tremendous opportunities. After all, they may have the opportunity to visit Disneyland in Florida and enjoy it or go down to the local pub or to the local theatre.
Everybody involved in these organisations has in one way or another an interesting and worthwhile job and has a contribution to make. If one wants to go into the service industry the sky is the limit. One can get to the top. It is a worthwhile career. It is very dispiriting to find that attitude when industries are crying out for workers. I live in Oxford and we had the famous advertisement only a couple of weeks ago about 30 bus drivers who came from Australia. It is incredible that people here do not take the jobs that are on offer. That is the most important point to make.
Secondly, I would like to say something else about Oxford which illustrates one of the points that the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, made in his important report. Tourism is a vital part of the economy of central southern England. Over 12 million visitors stayed in the region in 1994 and spent around £1.6 billion. In Oxford itself the city attracted 1.5 million visitors, of whom about 40 per cent. were from overseas. Their expenditure of £60 million to £80 million is vital to the local economy and it supports employment for over 3,500 people. But—and this is the point which the tourism report makes—where there is successful tourism it can in a sense be almost counter-productive. So many people come to see something that the very thing they have come to see becomes spoilt. It therefore creates a problem that needs to be dealt with, because it is no use any of us complaining. We want to go to see tourist attractions in other places, so why should not tourists come to see our attractions?
The question is what can be done. One solution has been the very useful co-operation between the Southern Tourist Board and the city council to focus more on tourism and increase its economic benefits, while at the same time reducing its physical impact. The appointment of a new tourism manager employed by the Southern Tourist Board through a contract with the city council has been very helpful. It has encouraged visitors to stay longer and to spend more money in the city, as well as reducing the problems that they cause. A survey has shown that 40 per cent. of visitors spend less than three hours in Oxford before moving on. If they can be persuaded to stay over a longer period of time, it will make the situation much more satisfactory for everybody. The whole experience will be better because one will be better able to deal with the problems of too many cars, litter, environmental damage, overcrowding and so on. The management of all this is very important indeed. This project illustrates the vital role of the 1153 regional tourist boards in bringing together local authorities and the private sector to make matters better for everyone.
Thirdly, I wish briefly to say what the Government can and should do. I share the view of my noble friend Lord Montagu that it is somewhat bizarre that the money for the English Tourist Board has been cut, while that for Wales and Scotland has been increased. It is worth saying that on the day after St. George's Day. With the number of tourists that we have, I do not understand the reasons. I share the view in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, of the importance of co-operation between government departments. The Department of National Heritage and the DTI were mentioned, as were other departments. A very unhappy decision was the cancellation of CrossRail. It is valuable to have a railway link from Heathrow to Paddington. As someone who uses Paddington Station often, I can assure your Lordships that travelling on the Circle Line, or indeed by bus, is not one of the most pleasant experiences. When on top of that there are many young tourists carrying large backpacks, one sees that we need to have a properly co-ordinated transport policy so that we can see these things through.
I conclude by underlining some of the important points where government or regional tourist intervention can make this industry more effective. As has been said, it is important that accommodation should be properly classified and brought up to a reasonable standard. There should be proper co-ordination in the servicing of a network of tourist information centres. It is very important indeed that the standards of service, through training, should be improved. Nothing makes a greater impression on people than pleasant service; the converse is equally true. These are matters in which the Government can help. The case for the regional boards is a strong one and for their co-ordination with local authorities to help to make this vital industry more effective.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Lord Gibson
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Broughshane, for an admirable maiden speech. I have known him for more than 60 years. We worked together for part of that time at the Opera House. In the area of the arts, as in much else, he has already made a significant contribution. I hope that we shall hear him often in the future.
I wish to speak briefly and only about one relatively narrow point as regards tourism; namely, the need to protect our historic assets from over-use and from too great a pressure from tourism today so that they will be there for tourists of the future to enjoy. The noble Lord, Lord Elibank, has already made that point with great clarity and force. I would like to develop it a little further since it is an area in which I have had some experience before.
Before I do so, I heed the gentle warning of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, that we should not give facts and figures that he has already given. He has made that unnecessary. One figure astonishes me. It was given to 1154 the ICOMOS conference in Bath last autumn. I was not there, but I read about it. In another 10 years tourism will account for 10 per cent.—I am not sure whether it was not 11 per cent.—of the world's GDP, providing over 300 million jobs. Those are impressive figures. They were not contradicted and, if they are anything like accurate, tourism is becoming the single most important generator of wealth and employment. It is very important, therefore, that we in Britain capture or retain a healthy share of this huge trade. In the battle to do so we start off with some wonderful assets, both natural and man-made—that goes without saying. Of course, we do not have everything. Much of the world's tourism consists of people lying around on beaches, and not many people come here to do that.
Our prime assets are our wonderfully gentle, civilised landscape and the buildings in our villages, our castles, our manor houses, our public houses and, above all, our churches. We have over 9,000 pre-Reformation churches. It is not always that easy to get into them, but you can get in if you try. They are the legacy of the relatively peaceful continuity of life on this island, which is unmatched anywhere else in the world. Even the weather, if not in itself an attraction, is only the price we pay for having the most beautiful gardens in the world to show our visitors from abroad. It is, therefore, with uniquely valuable assets that we face this ever-expanding tourist industry.
The problem is that those assets are extremely vulnerable, or many of them are, as are the ones with which I propose to concern myself for a moment or two. They are liable to be diminished by the pressure of the tourists themselves "loving them to death", as the phrase goes. If this pressure continues to grow at its present rate, there will be little for the tourists of tomorrow, and the prosperity and employment which we derive from tourism will be short-lived. We have to do more than we have yet done to develop what the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, referred to as "sustainable tourism".
Any business, whether in the tourist industry or not, must develop a means of preserving or renewing the assets on which its wealth depends. In most businesses assets can be replaced, but the most important tourist assets are not replaceable. That is the main reason why, for example, the National Trust and other owners of historic property often close their more fragile interiors in winter. Of course, there are also economic reasons for closing in winter, but furniture, pictures and other things need relief from pressure. In many a great house some of the contents are nowadays subject to more visitor pressure in one year than they may have previously had to endure in the past hundred years.
I remember years ago, when I was chairman of the National Trust, I was invited to dinner with the English Tourist Board and I was pressed to agree that our houses should be open all winter to accommodate the increasing number of winter tourists. When I explained the need to rest and conserve such things as furniture, tapestry, curtains and so on, one very formidable member of the tourist board at that time, who had better be nameless, lent forward and said: "But my dear Lord Gibson, if only you would be a little more enterprising, you would earn more money and you would be able to buy new 1155 curtains". I tried to explain that that was not what the National Trust was primarily about. Of course, no member of the ETB today would say such a thing. That was nearly 20 years ago.
The need for conservation and the broader need for sustainability in general is now much more widely accepted. The ETB has developed various excellent ideas to that end. But the whole idea of sustainability cannot be emphasised strongly enough and needs to be more widely accepted than it is at present. We are not there yet.
The point is, as the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, said—or it may have been the noble Lord, Lord Montagu—this is an industry of very small businesses and it is difficult to expect small operators to resist the temptation to maximise short-term profit and let the future take care of itself. It is only within the context of a strong lead from the Government in relation to the tourist boards that this can happen. It probably has to be done by regulation to a considerable extent but also, where appropriate, by giving incentives or imposing penalties in the form of charges to ensure that the long-term erosion of our assets is avoided.
To give an example, historic buildings need constant sympathetic repair. However, the effect of the present VAT system is that repair is subject to VAT and replacement is not. This has been said many times before, but it cannot be too strongly emphasised what a crazy absurdity this is. I do not know the answer to it. We all know the answers that are given and how difficult it is, but there must be some way of ceasing to encourage people to replace historic assets rather than to repair them. One cannot have a better example of the way in which we can expect a lead from the authorities to this end.
If there were no other arguments except the economic one supporting the expenditure of taxpayers' money on our historic assets—and not only our historic assets but also, as the noble Lord, Lord Broughshane, mentioned, our operas, our theatres and our concerts, in the form of public assistance and subsidy—it would be enough. Of course, the fact that there is a purely cultural argument ought to be enough by itself, but one is conscious that politicians—I am sure not in your Lordships' House, of course—do not always value culture as highly as economics. For instance, does it make sense, even in the light of its economic value, to allow such a huge backlog of repairs as has been allowed to develop at the Victoria and Albert Museum over the years?
To conclude, one is reluctant to underline the purely economic aspects of what should be accepted as a cultural case, but I believe that it is right in a debate on tourism to emphasise the economic values and to remind ourselves that safeguarding the future of our tourist assets is good business.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Lord Feldman
My Lords, it would have taken me longer to summon up the courage to make my maiden speech in your Lordships' House, but I could not resist the clarion call of this debate and the opportunity to 1156 support the British tourist industry. It is for me a particular pleasure to speak in a debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Montagu who once again showed why he is so highly regarded in British and international tourism.
I, too, congratulate my fellow maiden speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Broughshane, on the work that he has done at the Royal Opera House, where I have spent many happy hours over many years and hope to continue to do so in the future.
I should declare an interest, in that I am a long-serving and happy member of the English Tourist Board and I am also the chairman of both the tourist-related London Arts Season and the Festival of Arts and Culture, launched under the auspices of the ETB, the British Tourist Authority and the London Tourist Board.
Tourism is a "many-splendoured thing". It draws upon a constellation of many of the things which I treasure in life, and I am sure that I am not alone in that in this House. Travel, scenic beauty, heritage, architecture, the arts, sports, music, food and wine—who can doubt the value of an industry based on such attractions? Nor are those pleasures the province of the few. They are now the opportunity of the many.
As has been said already, tourism has too often in the past been treated as a "candyfloss" industry, a pleasant confection, not a serious industry—a sort of Cinderella among the industries. I suggest that this particular Cinderella has had no fairy godmother to take her to the ball. Tourism has got there by dint of the value it offers and the pleasure it brings.
As suggested by my noble friend Lord Montagu, I have slaughtered the mass of statistics that I was going to give, save for one, which I think is important: four out of every 10 of the new jobs created in the past 12 months have come from tourism.
Leisure may be the product, but leisurely is not the pace of competition in the industry. Winning the tourist dollar, yen or mark requires an ever-stronger product as the competition expands. In this country, we cannot rely alone on the sun and our weather to bring tourists here, but we can rely on our cultural, artistic and historic heritage which is second to none.
However, it has to be marketed and presented. The London Arts Season was one such enterprise and is an interesting case study. At the ETB, we set out initially to increase visitors for the arts to London and from there to the regions. It took several years to achieve it, but it was worth it. How did we do it? We brought the directors of museums, galleries, opera houses, concert halls, theatres (large and fringe) together, over lunch or dinner. Interestingly, in many cases they had not even met one another before, so we all sat down and ate for victory.
We planned an arts season, putting together all of London's productions along with many new events which we promoted to the world. We enabled overseas tourists to book their travel, hotel and theatre with one telephone call, without having to rely on the artistic ability of the hotel porter. Significantly, we chose February and March, times when arts venues, hotels and 1157 'planes were in low season. In doing that, we showed the arts the benefits of tourism, and tourism the benefits of working with the arts. We gathered 60 major names as arts "ambassadors", and some of them travelled around the world promoting the season and the festival.
We launched the first season in 1994. Now, after three London Arts Seasons, we have brought £75 million to the economy of London. That led to a massive campaign by the British Tourist Authority, promoting all of Britain's arts to the world. The year-long British Festival of Arts and Culture in 1995 brought in an extra £150 million. I am pleased to see in his place the chief executive of the British Tourist Authority and a director of the London Arts Season. New relationships have been forged, and they grow stronger.
The arts have always been an important part of the UK tourism product, but there had never been a coherent overall tourism and arts strategy. Yet 50 per cent. of overseas visitors are drawn here by our arts and heritage. Our West End theatres sell 12 million tickets annually, one-third of which are sold to overseas visitors. More than 40 million overseas visitors go to our museums, galleries and historic properties every year. The tourism spend on the arts is approaching £3 billion per year.
Now arts and tourism have found one another, they stand to prosper together. One way in which they can prosper is through the establishment of a tourism and arts bureau in London to promote them both at home and abroad every month of the year.
When Mark Twain visited Bayreuth, he was asked on his return what he thought of it. He answered:Bayreuth is beautiful, and Wagner's music is not as bad as it sounds".We need not fear a backhanded compliment for our arts, but visitors to Britain must be served equally well in other respects. The work of the Government and tourism bodies is rightly concerned with raising standards, especially in accommodation. That is essential if we are to compete in the tourism market. The Secretary of State has shown great interest in, and leadership for, tourism. In the Department of National Heritage, tourism is one of the areas to receive increased funding because of its enormous potential as a generator of wealth and jobs. However, perhaps I may say gently in Oliver Twist mode, "Please sir, can we have some more?" So, where do we go in the future? The best way to predict the future is to create it. I should like us to create a British map of major and acceptable tourism opportunities. Government cannot do it alone, yet together with the private sector we can find, research, back and sell the big ideas and projects. In many other countries we see local and national government taking such a midwife role. In this country the Government will work for inward investment or a domestic project when it is a car plant or an electronics factory. It must be equally valuable for the Department of National Heritage to see the tourist industry through the necessary departmental hurdles of environment, transport, employment and funding to promote a big idea, a major project. I suggest that that is the way that we shall develop the map of opportunities for Britain.
1158 I think back to 1896 when Grandpa Thompson put up a few rides on Blackpool beach. Today, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, with its new roller-coaster, is the UK's leading visitor attraction with 7.5 million visitors per year. I also think back to 1841 when Thomas Cook showed great enterprise in chartering a train to take 570 people from Leicester to Loughborough for the day. Since then, tourism has been an industry marked out by enterprise and people of vision, whether small-scale or large. It is up to the industry, the statutory bodies and the Government to recognise that vision and to give it backing. Tourism has an immense amount to offer and we as a country have everything to gain if we work together to achieve it.
§ 4.26 p.m.
The Earl of Glasgow
My Lords, it is my considerable privilege to be the one chosen to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Feldman, on his excellent and perceptive maiden speech. I think I speak for the whole House when I say that I hope that we shall hear very much more from him, not only on tourism, but on the many other issues in which he is an expert. Perhaps I may add that I share practically all of the noble Lord's recreational interests, and I hope that we might have a game of tennis one day.
I should like to say something about tourism in Scotland. Most of us in the tourist industry are encouraged by the support for tourism that this Government, and particularly the Secretary of State for Scotland, have shown. At a time when other government agencies have had their budgets cut, the Scottish Tourist Board has received an extra £3 million. As the Government clearly understand, tourism is very important to the Scottish economy, particularly for those more remote places where there is no other industry to provide jobs. Last year the revenue from tourism increased in real terms in Scotland by 7 per cent., and at last it seems that more English people are taking their holidays in Scotland. Ironically, it was the Scottish market that fell last year. Attempts to reverse that trend are being headed by a new marketing campaign with the slogan,It's your country—try it".It cannot be over-emphasised how important it is to all of us in the tourist industry that the Scottish Tourist Board and the BTA succeed in persuading more people to come to Scotland in the first place. To achieve that, they need money.
Another encouraging thing for Scotland is the Secretary of State's decision to make £3 million available to support the Scottish film industry. This is the first time for many years that any government have taken the Scottish film industry seriously. It has also helped to promote tourism in Scotland, as the successes of "Braveheart" and "Rob Roy" have already shown. The number of visitors to Stirling and Loch Lomond increased by a huge percentage last year as a direct result of those two films.
However, I must warn your Lordships that the Scottish film industry is not really "Braveheart" or "Rob Roy"; those are Hollywood films, shot in Scotland or in 1159 some cases, rather shamingly, shot partly in Ireland. No, the Scottish film industry is "Trainspotting" and "Small Faces", films now showing in several cinemas in London. Their subjects are drug addiction among down-and-outs, and gang warfare in Glasgow. However, I hope that your Lordships will not be put off by that because both films are outstanding, imaginative and entertaining. They are very good examples of the exceptional talent that already exists in the Scottish film industry.
My main concern for tourism in Scotland is one that I have expressed in the past. It stems from the way in which area tourist boards are formed in Scotland. It appears that for administrative purposes it is still deemed easier to create tourist boards around existing local authority boundaries, all of whom jealously try to promote their particular areas, if necessary at the expense of their neighbours. Tourists are not interested in boundaries. Therefore, tourist boards should not be concerned with boundaries. Tourists are attracted by specific holiday destinations which have established some kind of brand image for themselves: for instance, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Loch Lomond, the Cairngorms, the western Highlands and Burns country.
I find it frustrating that still it has not been possible to create a tourist board for the Firth of Clyde, now recognised as being the best sailing waters in Britain, because it falls within the boundaries of three different competing tourist board areas. At the beginning of this month, Scotland's 34 tourist boards were reduced to 14. Clearly, a small number of tourist boards makes sense. However, once again the territory of each has been dictated by the boundaries of the new unitary authorities. In most cases, old tourist boards have been grafted on to others to create new ones. Some of these boards seem somewhat cumbersome, at least in name. How about Argyll and the Isles, Loch Lomond, Stirling and the Trossachs Tourist Board?
There are already signs that the new unitary authorities will have difficulty in providing the necessary funds to enable the new tourist boards to promote themselves effectively. There is already talk about the need to close many existing tourist information centres all over Scotland, as the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, has also mentioned. TICs—also mentioned by the noble Lord—are the crucial link between the tourist industry and the visiting public. They are vital if tourism is to succeed in all parts. of Britain. However, the new tourist boards in Scotland have only just been formed and they must be given a chance. Most of us are hopeful for the future of tourism in Scotland. We hope that we shall continue to get the necessary government support.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Baroness Seccombe
My Lords, I begin by adding my thanks to my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu for initiating this debate, thus providing the opportunity to discuss a subject that is very close to my heart. I believe that tourism is one of our most important 1160 industries. It is often undervalued and not given true recognition for the contribution that it makes to the wealth of this country.
My first contact with the tourist industry was when I joined the Heart of England Tourist Board in 1977 as a representative of West Midlands County Council. Two years later, I was appointed chairman of the marketing sub-committee. It was in that capacity that my sub-committee and I developed enthusiastically compelling reasons why visitors from home and abroad should come to our region. This was at a time when the perception of the word "tourist" was beginning to change. Previously, tourists were thought to be, almost without exception, visitors from overseas and, in addition, maybe some schoolchildren.
My sub-committee and I had a real desire to open up and publicise the glorious villages and sites of interest in the region. Too often the tourist route was from London to Stratford-on-Avon and return via Broadway. Little thought appeared to be given to detours to other centres which lay only a few miles from the main route. At about that time the concept of two-holiday families emerged. The family would have a week or so in the sun and, later in the year, spend a few days getting to know our wonderful country a little better. Weekend breaks came on the scene and special offers abounded. One also saw the development of bed and breakfast accommodation at all levels, from the very lavish, which catered for the top end of the market, to more modest facilities, which were ideal for families. The situation was particularly attractive to women, who responded to the demand. They created employment for themselves by working at home, often looking after children at the same time. I endorse the words of my noble friend Lady Young. I found it all extremely exciting and stimulating. I have followed the developments and initiatives that have taken place since then. I believe that the regional board have done an excellent job. They have a wealth of expertise in many different fields.
I should like to refer to two very mundane issues of which sight must never be lost. I refer first to signposting. I understand that since the beginning of the year county councils have been responsible for signposting. We do not wish to scar the countryside with huge signs. However, I should like to see discreet and sensitively placed signs which indicate directions in a clear way. Sadly, I was born without an inbuilt compass and have no sense of direction. Unless the sun is shining, I have no idea whether I am facing north, south, east or west. In the majority of cases, signposting is first-class and very effective. However, I have found myself in a situation where, in looking for a particular venue at a T-junction, I have no idea which way to go. It is extremely irritating and time-consuming. I should like to see the tourist industry give special guidance to new entrants. I understand that people who come through the Channel Tunnel and wish to make for central London find the situation quite difficult. I hope that special efforts will be made in that respect.
My second point concerns litter. I realise that there have been countless campaigns but with limited success. However, I draw attention to the huge success of Regional Britain in Bloom. There have been record 1161 entries. Each year the absence of litter is a major element in coming to a decision as to the winner. I hate to say it, but we are a dirty nation. I am sure that we can all recount stories about the car driver in front who, while waiting at traffic lights, decides to rid his car of rubbish. He opens the window and tips out cigarette packets, sweet papers and so on. The occupants seem to be unaware of the anti-social action of the driver and its distasteful effect on others. The other day I walked past a probation office. The garden surrounding the building had been attractively laid out with shrubs, but it looked dreadful. Empty cans, bottles, crisp packets and so on lay where thoughtless persons had thrown them. This may not be the right time or place to say it, but I cannot believe that young people on community service cannot clear it up. They will be doing a real service to the community while at the same time learning how anti-social is the dumping of rubbish. There are those who say that it is degrading for offenders to do this kind of work. I do not accept that. I find it degrading that we as a society do not act to clear rubbish. We have a magical countryside, and for it to be scarred in this way is a tragedy.
I understand that the BTA has calculated that for every pound invested in tourism, there is a return of £23. Regional boards have great expertise in pump-priming; but there must be co-ordination by the public and private sectors with a partnership between local authority and commercial members. Tourism is a growing industry. It must be planned and managed with sensitivity and care for the environment. It must not be offensive to local residents who, it is hoped, appreciate that visitors bring extra finance to local communities. I believe that we all have a part to play. We are privileged to be surrounded by beautiful and fascinating places. But I believe that it is the responsibility of this generation to ensure that the legacy to our children is the continuance of a green and pleasant land.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Lord Methuen
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, for introducing today's debate on tourism and for the opportunity that it gives us to debate the report of your Lordships' Select Committee on Tourism and the Community. It was a great pleasure to be a member of the sub-committee which produced the report under the able chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Elibank. I should also declare an interest indirectly in so far as my family has owned a stately home in North Wiltshire. However, I no longer have any pecuniary interest in it, although the home has been open to the public for about 150 years.
The statistics on tourism have been ably stated by several pervious speakers, so I shall not repeat them. However, in Europe, though the absolute numbers of tourists are increasing, the industry has a declining share of the total world-wide tourism market. That can be seen in the increasing number of people going to North America, the Caribbean and Asian destinations due to the decrease in real terms of travel costs and the active promotion of those destinations by such organisations as the Pacific and Asia Tourism Association (PATA). 1162 Within Europe, one should be careful of tourist statistics because they are confused by the fact that they do not differentiate between business and true holiday visitors.
The wide diversity of the tourist industry has already been mentioned in the debate, so I shall not go through it. But, of course, the small and medium-sized enterprises incorporating bed-and-breakfast establishments cover many thousands of such enterprises in the United Kingdom. In many cases it is the sole employment available in the area. It is seasonal and offers only part-time employment with low wages. One of my noble friends has aptly described such low paid employment as the "working poor".
I live in the Peak National Park and am very well aware of the environmental problems caused by uncontrolled tourism, particularly to the fragile eco-systems of the high moors, and the traffic jams in our small communities; we are also beset by that other national park problem of extensive quarrying operations. These are problems common to many of our national parks, but the latter often offer the only significant alternative employment available in those areas and must be subject to sensitive planning control. We should encourage the increased use of public transport in those areas, particularly by means of park-and-ride schemes, where a single fee covers both parking and transport.
One of the considerations during the preparation of the report on tourism was the question of the promulgation of the whole of Europe as a tourist destination, rather than the individual countries. In my opinion, that has only limited application in specific target areas of the Far East and perhaps the United States. The United Kingdom is better served by having its own tourist offices overseas as at present. The Northern European countries are always likely to see an exodus to warmer climes during the summer, and hence Britain must exploit her unique scenic and cultural heritage to attract visitors, while protecting those assets from over-exploitation. We must also encourage the foreign visitor to see more than just London, Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford and Cambridge.
As the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, said, we also considered the involvement of the European Union Directorate General XXIII which is responsible for tourism. The Tourism Unit undoubtedly needs strengthening so that it can play a more effective role in co-ordinating with those other Directorates General whose activities affect tourism in the areas of the environment, transport and likewise. I believe that Directorate General XXIII has a role to play in the setting of standards in such areas as fire safety, and other environmental roles, and in a European-wide standard for hotel classification.
My wife is Austrian and she often emphasises to me that we very much need to pay more regard to the expectations of overseas visitors with regard to accommodation standards and cleanliness. While we ourselves may be prepared to put up with such deficiencies, foreign visitors are unfavourably impressed by those shortcomings. Further, in all areas, local authorities should be encouraged to pay more attention to clearing roadside litter; indeed, that matter has 1163 already been raised elsewhere. It is a real problem and one that is not due primarily to tourists. I believe that lorry drivers are also to blame, especially on the route that I have in mind. We should also persuade farmers to remove disused and rusting farm machinery which is another eye-sore to be found in the Peak District.
One should remember that every contented visitor will help to sell to his friends the places that he has visited. It has been found that visitors will pay for good service and for facilities such as local tourist maps, well-maintained and marked footpaths and roads, guided walks and cycle hire. The availability of passports giving entrance to multiple tourist attractions in the area is also beneficial, although I do not know to what extent that occurs. Local authorities might also be permitted to raise a modest local tourist tax from those staying in accommodation in the area, the amount being dependent on the class of accommodation and locality, and used for the provision of local tourist facilities, information centres and promotion of the area. Such taxes are seen overseas and might amount to only £1.50 or £2 per person per night.
I am sure that the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, will be pleased to hear that I am visiting Scotland this year and will be riding across it from one side to the other, thus supporting his area.
§ 4.46 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to start by declaring an interest in that I have been involved in the hotel business for over 10 years, apart from a break in government, and I am also a director of a company which is launching a major new tourist attraction in central London this summer. I should like, first, to look at the industry in this country. It is a fascinating industry. It is an industry that is diverse (one of its strengths) and it is one that is fragmented (one of its weaknesses). It has a multitude of organisations, all of which claim to represent it and all of which seem to have slightly different views.
The crucial question is what should the role of government be. I believe that the industry is successful not because of government policies but largely in spite of government policies. It is successful due to the hard work and investment by all those involved in the industry. The most important thing that government can do is to create the right economic climate that encourages the industry to invest in its product so that it can remain competitive and offer the product that the consumer wants. One of the most interesting lines in the report is to be found on page 28 where Mr. Robert Moreland, when discussing the success in America, said:While successes were largely attributable to business initiative rather than governmental action, government had a role in providing a friendly environment for business to operate in, with legislation that was permissive rather than prescriptive".I believe that that sums up very well what the role of government should be.
This Government have delivered. We now have in this country real economic growth without inflation, a competitive exchange rate and economic policies that 1164 encourage investment. Although I believe that government spending can have an impact, I profoundly disagree with those who just call for more and more money to be spent. That is not the answer. The Government must fund the BTA and other agencies. I believe that the authority does a very good job marketing overseas. One of the main reasons is that it raises money from the industry and then helps the industry to market its product through the BTA offices around the world.
Marketing campaigns must be industry led. We must not be afraid to add government money to those who are prepared to spend it. There is a terrible tendency in government to be afraid of backing success. But I believe that those are the people whom we should be backing. Of course the BTA could do with more money; indeed, we could all do with more money. However, the BTA is well funded by government. It will receive £35 million this year. What we must look at is how that compares with what others spend.
Of course, the biggest spender is the industry itself which is estimated to spend over £250 million a year. That figure may be a serious underestimate. Out of money spent abroad one of the biggest spenders are the airlines, which is why I have to say that in the incredibly competitive world of airline fares the introduction of the departure tax was, I am afraid, so particularly damaging to the tourism industry.
The next biggest spenders are local authorities, which probably spend about £70 million a year in promotion. Some spend well and some spend badly. I believe that the BTA and the ETB have an important role to play here in improving the quality of the spend. They must also work with other government agencies—the DTI being the most important other government department. They must work with the British Council, which has a budget four times as large as that of the BTA and which often, I am afraid, in the past has seemed to shy away from collaborating.
I know that there have always been complaints in the past that the Government are constantly reviewing their tourism policy. I believe that is a good thing because it is a constantly evolving industry. What matters is that the reviews are outward looking and not inward looking. I hope that there will be time in the next legislative programme to merge the BTA and the ETB. It would save money and make sense. It would not be necessary if Scotland had not marketed itself abroad on its own, but now it has done so and it has that power, it shows no signs of wanting to give it up.
The role of the ETB has narrowed in recent years. I think that is right. The local tourist boards are closest to their industry. They are commercially operated and must be helped. There is scope for them to co-ordinate better between themselves and they obviously must recruit more members. I believe the single most important thing the ETB can do is to make the crown classification scheme work. There is a major goal here if we can merge this scheme with the AA and RAC schemes and produce a nationwide scheme which is understandable and affordable. I do not believe it should 1165 be a statutory scheme. I think that it should be voluntary and run by the local tourist boards, which, after all, are non-statutory bodies.
Consumers are confused. I do not think, as has been suggested, that we should try to have an all-EC scheme. There are too many in Europe and they are all different. We could spend years trying to negotiate an EC-wide scheme. We must concentrate on what we need here. Can my noble friend say what progress has been made in that regard? Progress has also been made in London, which for many years, rather strangely, had one of the weaker tourist boards. However, under the leadership of Sir John Egan, it has rapidly improved. The Government have offered more money to be matched by the industry. Can my noble friend say how much of that has been spent so far?
I was the first to welcome the Government's deregulation initiative when it was announced. There are far too many unnecessary regulations and they multiply every day. That is strangling the industry, particularly the smaller operator. I hope that the Government will redouble their efforts, as I am afraid that progress is painfully slow in this area.
I shall speak briefly about what the Commission has to offer, and I shall also speak briefly on the report which is before your Lordships. As is the case with most matters which concern the EC, there are some good aspects and some bad aspects. I am a natural sceptic and start from the view that EC competence usually means incompetence. I am afraid that I judge it guilty until proven innocent. One has only to consider some of the suggestions that have arisen, for example as regards European advertising. I shudder to imagine EC-funded European slogans. I hope that marketing will be left to the industry and that the EC will work with the industry and support it but not impose itself on the industry.
On the plus side, elevating the tourism unit to the status of a directorate is a good idea. It could promote the cause of tourism and have more influence, especially if we are to deal with matters such as the distance selling directive, or whatever new wheeze is thought up in the future. But please let there be no provisions on capital spending; that must be a matter for the industry. However, that does not mean not helping with infrastructure. If any of your Lordships need convincing, they should look at the awful monstrosities built at the time of a socialist government in Greece. They are ghastly and also a commercial disaster.
While on the subject of socialists, I must inform noble Lords opposite that acceptance of the social chapter would seriously damage the tourism industry in this country. If noble Lords opposite do not believe me, they should talk to a French hotelier, over half of whose wages bill goes in taxes to the state.
Some of those in the tourism industry in our country often contend that compared with our European neighbours we have the highest rate of VAT. I know the Government have been studying this matter and I wonder whether my noble friend can say whether they have reached any conclusions on how we compare with our neighbours. This is a useful debate which adds to our understanding of the industry. I am sure that the 1166 Government will take careful note of it so they can formulate their policies to continue to support this important industry.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Lord Bancroft
My Lords, I speak narrowly to the report of the European Communities Committee and pay more than the usual obeisance or tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, who chaired the committee, and to the many helpful witnesses including, notably, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, the Minister. I follow hot on the heels of a fellow member of the committee, the noble Lord, Lord Methuen, and, like King Wenceslas' page, I must mark his footsteps well.
I confine myself even more narrowly to a sexless aspect of tourism; namely, organisation. Other noble Lords—notably the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu—have spoken eloquently of the quite staggering statistics. That makes it the more essential that the Government on the one hand and the Commission on the other organise themselves efficiently. First, I shall discuss the Government. I take it as read that the prosperity of the industry rests primarily with the thousands of corporations and individuals who comprise it. As the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, implied, with a happy combination of cruelty and truth, the Government's role should be confined to that of facilitator.
The Department of National Heritage is the chosen instrument—what we are allowed, by a further happy spin of history's wheel, to call once again a sponsoring department. There is a respectable case for arguing that that role could be better performed by the Department of Trade and Industry. It is there indeed that sponsorship used to lie. We discussed this in the committee. The arguments are finely balanced. However, experience compels me to the view that unless the perceived benefits of change are massively greater than the penalties, it is better to put one's hands in one's pockets and mooch away.
Governments over the years—as we all know—have bickered incessantly over the machinery of central government, the machinery of local government, the machinery of taxation and the organisation of industry. The results have either been dismally visible and short lasting or mercifully imperceptible. I have long carried with me the biting quotation by Abbot Bower on the legislative enthusiasm of King James I of Scotland in the Parliament of 1426,to enact new laws with facility, and to change the old with facility, is marvellous damaging to good order".He was quoting Aristotle. We are heirs to a long inheritance. I am therefore content to accept that so long as we have a DNH the responsibility for the tourism industry should continue to rest there.
As to the machinery in the Commission for sponsoring the industry, I of course support the committee's view that there should be no new treaty title for tourism, and no setting up of a separate tourism agency. I also strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, that the existing tourism unit should he given the status of a directorate within DG XXIII, with a judiciously small increase in staff.
1167 In her otherwise surprisingly helpful response, the Secretary of State disagrees. She says flatly that,it would not affect the unit's ability to do the job effectively".How does she know? What evidence does she have to support her view in the face of the evidence the other way? Her reply is headed, "London SW1". We were not privileged to see the envelope in which it came, but it must have been postmarked "Delphi".
As the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, reminded us, we are dealing with an industry which accounts for about 5.5 per cent. of Community gross domestic product and 6 per cent. of Community jobs. The tourism unit's role is to provide a degree of horizontal co-ordination within a Commission which is organised on vertical functional lines in the classic tradition of Lord Haldane. The unit has half a dozen permanent staff and a handful of supporters.
I do not share the delusion that enhancement of status or rank is ever of itself a solution to problems. That seems to me as moonstruck an approach as that of an adolescent rhinoceros in love. However, there are occasions in any organisation, private or public, national or international, when status can assist in a co-ordinating role. I was glad to have the support of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, on this point. One may innocently inquire why else does one have a First Secretary of State, and a Deputy Prime Minister? I submit that we have a further example here. I take the liberty of hoping that in his usual courteous and helpful way the Minister will invite the Secretary of State to re-read our report and the relevant evidence at her leisure.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Lord Shuttleworth
My Lords, I should like to join with others in thanking my noble friend Lord Montagu for initiating this debate about tourism's contribution to the economy and employment.
I want to talk about tourism in the countryside; and I must, therefore, declare my interest as chairman of the Rural Development Commission, the government agency responsible for the economic and social well-being of the people who live and work in rural England.
I and others have long argued that the best way of ensuring that the countryside is properly looked after is to ensure that there is a prosperous and broadly based rural economy. Despite the economic buoyancy of most rural areas in recent years, we are all too often reminded, as we have been over the past five weeks, of the fragility of some sectors in that economy.
How important has been the growth in rural tourism, my Lords. At the risk of incurring the wrath of my noble friend Lord Montagu, I give two statistics. Rural tourism involves visitor expenditure in excess of £8 billion; it supports more than 300,000 jobs in rural England. As the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, reminded us, the tourism industry believes that across the UK in the next 10 years a further 300,000 new jobs will be created, hopefully with a pro rata share for the countryside.
1168 The general growth in rural tourism masks some continuing problems, as several noble Lords have said. There is a need to think carefully about the future of some of our coastal holiday towns—perhaps I should exclude Blackpool—following the decline in traditional seaside holidays. There is also a need to relieve the pressure placed on particularly popular areas such as the Lake District, the Peak Park and the Cotswolds. We must accept that, without proper planning and management, tourism will bring traffic congestion, parking problems, litter and environmental problems. Rural tourism, while benefiting the economy, must also respect the environment upon which much of it relies.
In the very short time available to me, I want to make three points, all confirmed by recent research and reports produced by the Rural Development Commission. First, the benefits of rural tourism are much more widely distributed through all sections of a rural community than might be apparent at first sight. Benefits do not just flow to tourist businesses but beyond, to support for a range of rural services much needed in the countryside. In many cases, and throughout rural England, essential services like village shops, bus services and post offices which form a lifeline for rural communities stay in business with the help of the additional trade brought by tourism. We published some research demonstrating that only two months ago. This particular benefit from tourism is often overlooked—not least by the beneficiaries.
Secondly, the tourism industry itself can do much to contribute to the environment in which it operates. With the Department of National Heritage, the Countryside Commission and the ETB, the Rural Development Commission produced an advisory report, Sustainable Rural Tourism—Opportunities for Local Action, which my noble friend the Minister who is to reply to the debate launched last autumn. It provides .examples of good practice and looks in some detail at a range of techniques that are available to seek the right balance between visitor, place and host community in the countryside.
The Minister will recall that at that launch we heard from a South Devon hotelier about the pilot of a green tourism audit kit in which over 200 local tourism businesses took part. That showed that businesses, from small-scale bed and breakfast through to large hotels and tourism attractions, can adopt policies which positively benefit their business, their visitors and their environment.
Last week I visited Exmoor National Park and saw the way in which the park authority and the tourism industry work together in encouraging tourism that respects the environment yet enables tourism businesses to thrive. Together they produce the local accommodation guide; and together through the Rural Development Commission's brokerage they have created an Exmoor Producers' Association.
The products made by 60 local businesses enable hoteliers and restaurateurs to source food and other products locally thereby adding value to their menus and accommodation. The association provides tourists with a wide selection of souvenirs and gifts made locally, 1169 including household products from chairs to charcoal made from the woodlands of Exmoor. This reinforces the conservation and public enjoyment messages of the national park to visitors to Exmoor.
The final point to which I wish to turn today is the hope that I expressed earlier that rural England will play its full part in the future growth of the industry. A successful rural economy is an evolving economy where businesses and earnings are reflective of changing markets. Tourism is a particularly strong example of an industry which faces constant change in customers' needs and demands. But change in the countryside is often very difficult to achieve, in particular when it involves development. I have used the words "sustainable tourism" sparingly today. Too often—I cast no aspersion on noble Lords who may have used the phrase in the debate today—it is a phrase prayed in aid by those who oppose suitable tourism development in rural areas. Proper concerns about tourism must be addressed and, if possible, relieved rather than concealed behind the more vociferous NIMBY element, for the industry, with the economic and environmental benefits it brings to the countryside, needs to adapt and change if it is to remain successful.
I hope that no one—and I assure the House least of all me—wants to despoil the countryside. But in that context we should not automatically assume that no large-scale tourism projects can have a place in rural areas. I use as an example holiday villages, which have demonstrated that they can be well planned, well managed and sited in locations which gain environmentally as well as economically from their presence, as I have seen for myself. Our research found an average of £10 million expenditure in the local area during construction of each village and over 450 permanent jobs came from each development, with demonstrable economic and environmental benefit.
That persuades me that unless there are very strong environmental concerns associated with the site or the access to it, there is a conclusive argument for supporting the commercial activities of some of the UK's leading tourism companies that have created this innovative and popular tourism product.
So tourism is one of the industries which can offer the economic diversity and breadth so necessary for a strong, resilient rural economy. It has been successful in recent years in contributing positively to the countryside. Pressures and problems exist and must be addressed so that rural England can continue to benefit from tourism.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ The Marquess of Hertford
My Lords, like many other Members of your Lordships' House, I declare an interest in that my home is supported largely, though I am sorry to say not entirely, by the proceeds of tourism. I was for 18 years president of what was then the West Midland Tourist Board. It was called that until some idiot went and created an entirely new county somewhere near Birmingham and called it West Midlands. We now have what I find a slightly embarrassing title of the Heart of England Tourist Board. It sounds slightly bogus to me.
1170 Some years ago the British Tourist Authority sent me on a three-week tour of North America to sell a ticket priced at about 10 dollars, which gave access to about 100 historic houses. I cannot imagine that many people would want to spend an entire holiday visiting 100 different historic houses. It was an interesting and enlightening experience, I only spent about one night in each place, so I visited a large number of cities in Canada and America. The two English people whom I met wherever I went were the British Tourist Authority representative and the local British consul. I am not in any way running down the consular service, but my impression was that the British Tourist Authority representatives made a far better job of promoting British interests than the consular service. That impression was confirmed by an American journalist in New York who remarked to me that if America had any organisation remotely as efficient as the BTA, no Americans would leave America because they have so much there. Luckily, they do not know it.
However, one must not become over-confident about the efforts of the British Tourist Authority because I believe that almost 90 per cent. of Americans do not possess a passport. That therefore gives considerable scope for greater promotion. For that reason, I wish to give warm support to the recommendation that the Government should give more help to the British Tourist Authority. I know that that means more money, but the money would be well spent. It would also obviously be desirable in a perfect world that the local tourist boards should receive a little more support than they do. I must emphasise the fact that the British Tourist Authority, in all its offices around the world, does a wonderful job of promoting British tourism. It needs more support.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Viscount Thurso
My Lords, I too wish to begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, on giving us the opportunity to debate the importance of tourism to the economy. I also wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, and the members of his committee on the excellent work they did in producing their report.
I believe that the cobbler should stick to his last, and therefore, as a hotelier, I shall stick to giving a particularly partisan view of tourism as seen by a hotelier. At the same time, I shall declare my interests as a director of a number of hotel companies and sitting on the board of a number of industry bodies.
Different organisations produce different statistics as to the value of tourism. However, it is clear that there is common consent that tourism is a great revenue generator and job producer, hence an industry of national importance. I believe that the definition used by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, is a rather narrow one, but it is the one that the Government used in the 1996 heritage report. Whatever definition one uses, the industry is of sufficient size and importance that it is now vital for the Government to establish and co-ordinate long-term policies for its continuing success.
In order to achieve that, there is an urgent need, in my view, for the Government to conduct a full and comprehensive review of the industry so that proper 1171 policies might be pursued. In the Department of National Heritage's 1996 report, page 23, there is an indication of a study. Perhaps the Government and the Minister would consider the possibility of widening the study to a full review. I wish to suggest a number of points which might be taken into account.
First, it is important to understand the difference between leisure visitors and economic visitors. Currently, the existing figures do not differentiate between the two sources of visitors. I think that the figures include both. I find it both fascinating and revealing that there is no reference to economic tourists, if I may call them that, in the department's annual report, in the Select Committee report or in the excellent debate in your Lordships' House last year initiated by the noble, Lord Bradford. Yet in London, most three, four and five-star hoteliers depend on the corporate sector for anything up to 80 per cent. of their business.
At the Hotel General Managers' Conference which I chaired, Mr. Alan Hopper of Pannell Kerr Forster showed a graph comparing London hotel occupancy over the past 10 years to GDP. His clear conclusion was that hotel occupancy followed the general health of the economy, underlining the prime importance of business visitors.
Not only is this important to understand in relation to foreign visitors but it is a huge influence in the domestic market. Any hotel which is situated in an area of reasonable economic activity can compete for corporate accounts which are often the mainstay of those businesses. That kind of economic tourism is in many ways of even more value than leisure tourism, since it is far more dependable and less seasonal. It is therefore vital that we have a proper and correct understanding of its importance and size.
Secondly, we must establish a clear understanding of what we expect all tourism to achieve before we can establish how to achieve it. It may be a statement of the obvious, but I believe it bears repeating that tourism is an economic activity designed to produce profits for its participants and for the economy as a whole. I would therefore define the objective of tourism as being to create the maximum economic benefit with the minimum disruption to the local population and at the minimum cost to the local exchequer.
Tourism, as with any industry—as a number of noble Lords have pointed out—has its undesirable by-products. Those of us who work in the industry must be conscious of them. Without a real economic benefit, the disruption, cost and damage which tourism can bring is unacceptable. UK Tourism plc must therefore have a clear corporate vision to enable the maximum yield from the minimum costs and disruption.
Thirdly, we need to develop new methods for measuring the industry, based on yield and not volume. The industry has traditionally been measured by visitor numbers with little or no thought given to spend or cost per visitor. If we can measure tourism in terms of yield—that is to say spend less cost—we will have a far clearer picture of what is actually profitable. In addition, it would be valuable to apply that criterion to the 1172 creation of jobs. While it is important to create jobs, it is perhaps more important to create jobs that are sustainable and offer a reasonable wage. As a hotelier, I do not want to be accused of adding to the "working poor"; I want to offer reasonable terms of employment and pay, and good career prospects. It should be part of our long-term policy for tourism that the jobs we create are sustainable, with good prospects, and not simply part-time or casual.
Fourthly, we must address the issue of quality in the provision of tourism services. The government paper, Competing with the Best, is certainly a great help, and the Government should be congratulated on its production. However, it ducks one of the main issues. In an industry as fragmented as ours, voluntary classification systems simply do not work, and never will. The crown system is a confusing failure, regarded by most hoteliers as irrelevant. We need a compulsory system, whether it is statutory, as in France, or through self-regulation by an industry body such as the BHA. We shall make no progress until the classification system is universal, simple and has teeth.
For these and other reasons I urge the Government to conduct a full and complete review, in consultation with the industry, which will enable the development and prosecution of a long-term policy for the industry.
For many years the Government's attitude towards the tourism industry and the hotel industry in particular has been regarded as one of such indifference that most hoteliers have given up on government bodies. Indeed, the industry's view was that the Government's attitude was rather like that of Wellington at Waterloo. Commenting on the French, he said: "They came on in the same old way and we defeated them in the same old way". However, that attitude has now changed. I congratulate both the Secretary of State and her predecessor on the initiatives they have undertaken for consultation with the industry. In particular, the appointment of a secondee from the industry to the Department of National Heritage, Mr. Roy Tutty, has proved inspirational. I was delighted to learn recently that his secondment has been extended, since he has built a very strong bridge, previously lacking, between the industry and government.
For the first time for a very long time, the industry is beginning to feel that its voice might be being heard in government. I therefore urge the Government to capitalise on that good will by undertaking a full review so that we may establish long-term policies for the continuing success of the industry.
I have a final word on funding. Here I shall disagree rather violently with my former boss, the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, who was somewhat more generous with funding at Cliveden. On 29th March 1994, the DTI issued a press release announcing a grant of £9.4 million for Jaguar Cars which it said would sustain (its word) 900 jobs. That values each existing job at being worth £11,000. Last year, the Department of National Heritage spent £44 million on tourism. Using its figure of 1.5 million jobs, that works out at £29 per job.
1173 We do not ask for much. We merely ask to be regarded on the same level as other industries. I very much hope that if the Government can undertake the review to which I referred, it will give them the ammunition to talk to other departments, and, it is to be hoped, make them realise the value of tourism to our economy.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Lord Mountevans
My Lords, I declare an interest. I also declare my gratitude to my noble friend Lord Montagu for giving us this opportunity for debate. I also congratulate the Select Committee on its excellent report which covers the issues very well and makes recommendations that are broadly acceptable both to the industry and, I hope, to Her Majesty's Government. This latter is particularly important; the IGC White Paper suggests that tourism will probably be an item on the agenda at the forthcoming conference. I am aware of the existence of a tourism chapter in draft. When the conference comes to consider the subject, I hope that it will decide that the draft tourism chapter may long be left to gather dust.
My noble friend Lord Elibank detailed the committee's conclusions. I shall comment on some of them. I welcome the recommendation that the way ahead is through existing treaty provision and not through a new tourism title. I should oppose a new title and enhanced central powers: first, because I believe there would be too many political masters for a workable policy to emerge; secondly, because there would be too much bureaucracy—like political masters, bureaucracy is a brake on the fast-moving activity that tourism requires—and, thirdly, because I believe that tourism is a matter for subsidiarity. Individual countries must be left in command of their own detailed tourism policy as well as its execution.
There is also a concern, which some noble Lords may share, about the possibility of fraud. In his evidence to your Lordships' committee, Mr. Edward McMillan-Scott, the MEP, made much of that. Subsequently some noble Lords may have noticed a press report that two members of the staff of DG XXIII had been arrested and remanded in custody, no less, on fraud allegations.
I turn now to the committee's recommendation that the Commission should do some marketing to complement individual or joint efforts of the national tourist offices of individual countries. I am not sure that I should say that all marketing funds are welcome, but I believe that any Commission activity should be through the European Tourism Commission or through the national tourist offices rather than being complementary to their work.
I believe that the national tourist offices have the skills—some more than others. Certainly, I do not believe that the Commission has them. I was somewhat surprised that, in evidence, the BTA was criticised by Mr. Brackenbury for not working with the private sector, when that is far from the truth.
When in earlier days I controlled a marketing budget with a spend of some £6 million, it was funded one-quarter grant-in-aid and three-quarters funding from 1174 the industry. That that was the way ahead was confirmed by all the awards that the British Tourist Authority has won over the years in different market-places for being the most competent and the best national tourist office. My noble friend Lord Montagu mentioned some of the awards in passing. I have a list of over a dozen. The easiest thing one can say about them is that the BTA's trophy cabinet is rather fuller than that of any English football team.
I turn now to speed of action, which I believe is absolutely paramount, whether it is to build a brand or to react to circumstances, positive or negative. I cannot see the Commission showing the requisite pace, given the political and bureaucratic constraints that I detailed earlier. Rather, we must look for the vigorous response referred to by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, or, as my noble friend Lord Feldman put it in his excellent speech, "Leisurely is not the pace".
From the purely British point of view, our strengths are already established—be that a legacy from the days of the colonies, such as a common language and common heritage; be it in the well-established icons that we have; be it as a result of the work that the British Tourist Authority has already done. We have an extremely well established product. I believe that our own success would be diluted were we to get into pan-European promotions. One witness implied that, in the American market, we were still in the days of, "Today it's Thursday, so it must be Belgium". The truth is that the American market has come much further than that. Americans now know exactly what they want, and we must remind them constantly that we have it.
Two carrier facts might serve to illustrate our strengths. North America-to-Europe is the most competitive long-haul aviation ground in the world. We have 37 per cent. of it. Imagine that figure being diluted to the advantage of France, Germany, Switzerland or anybody else! Similarly, many years ago British Rail took the view—rightly, as it turned out—that rather than join the pan-European promotion for the Eurail pass, it would make very much more money by simply selling BritRail passes. That has always proved to be the case.
The best role for the Commission is as a mirror of what my noble friend Lord Montagu described as the role of the Department of National Heritage, which is actively to champion the role of tourism to other directorates. It might well seek to enhance standards. It might well seek to ensure commonality of statistics. But its principal remit must be to keep tourism's profile high. The Commission as a whole must ensure that DG 23 has the resources to keep the importance of our industry in front of the other directorates. Not least, as was mentioned by several previous speakers, it must ensure that other directorates are aware—I know that DNH does this to other departments over here—of the impact which proposed policies have on tourism growth. And growth is what we need—growth primed and led by the British Tourist Authority and the national tourist boards.
While I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister, and to my noble friend Lord Astor for their success in fighting the budget corner, I do recall the Written 1175 Answer which was given last autumn to my noble friend Lord Bradford, which illustrated that grant-in-aid to the five main boards had risen in cash terms by perhaps only £100,000 between 1979 and 1995. Given the ravages of inflation and exchange rates, that is not a figure of which to be very proud. We must back success, as several noble Lords have said, and, as my noble friend Lord Feldman did in his excellent maiden speech, like Oliver Twist I cry out for more.
§ 5.30 p.m.
The Earl of Bradford
My Lords, first, I must declare my close interest in tourism and its effective promotion as owner of Porters Restaurant, Covent Garden, president of the Master Chefs of Great Britain, a committee member of the Restaurateurs Association of Great Britain, chairman of Weston Park Enterprises and president of the Wrekin Tourism Association. I should also apologise to your Lordships for the fact that I have not been able to attend for all of the debate on this important subject.
I am delighted that the Select Committee report has highlighted the need to allocate more resources to the British Tourist Authority. Unfortunately Her Majesty's Government, and in particular the Treasury, have simply not realised that money spent on tourism promotion is an investment that pays dividends directly and quickly.
As just been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Mountevans, the grant for tourism promotion has remained the same in real terms for the past 15 years, which, in fact, equates to a reduction, as many of the British Tourist Authority's costs are in foreign currencies. Therefore the decline in the value of the pound has had a major effect. Against a basket of European currencies, it has gone down by 23 per cent. since 1990, though Europe now provides nearly 60 per cent. of all the inbound tourism spend to Britain.
Since 1979 our performance has slipped gently backwards in comparison with almost every other country in Europe. Our share of world tourism, for instance, has declined from six per cent. in 1987 to only 4.3 per cent. six years later, while we are third from bottom in the European league table of tourism growth between 1980 and 1992.
The crazy thing is that money spent on tourism promotion produces very real and tangible returns. It yields a direct financial profit to the Treasury. It is estimated that every extra pound spent on tourism promotion produces over £4 in additional tax revenue—a money-making scheme if there ever was one, with no catches, definitely not a Barlow Clowes. More than that, it affects the balance of payments, where a surplus of £500 million in 1985 has been turned into a deficit of £4.5 billion in 1995. Equally important, it creates jobs—one new job for every £28,500 of increased tourism spend. That missing £5 billion in the balance of payments would have provided for 175,000 new jobs.
All those facts were highlighted in your Lordships' House in the debate of 25th October last year. It was followed shortly after by the announcement of the government grant for 1996—a pitiful increase of 1176 £1 million and in real terms a decrease. That will certainly not turn the tide in our favour, however carefully the money is managed.
The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, drew our attention to the quality of tourism. It should be appreciated that unfortunately the quality of the tourists visiting these shores has tended to decline—not, I hasten to add, in their appearance or background, but in terms of the amount of money they spend here. Too many coaches of daytrippers clog up the streets and squares of London. Those tourists are obviously included in the overall figures, despite the fact that they spend very little here.
We need to attract the well-heeled, high-spending tourist, particularly the business tourist, thereby putting less of a strain on our country's infrastructure which already often creaks under the increased burden.
Great strides have been made by the British Tourist Authority under the chairmanship of Adele Biss. Many in the tourism industry find it strange and sad that her contract has not been renewed for a further period, and also regret the manner in which it has been handled. Her quiet but effective stewardship of the British Tourist Authority won her many friends in what is a notoriously critical industry. Her professionalism and commitment to quality achieved much in raising the overall number of visitors and the profile of Britain as a destination, despite the lack of sufficient government grant. Her appointment of Anthony Sell as chief executive has proved to be an excellent and inspired choice, and, as a result, I am sure that her work will not have been in vain. We all hope that her replacement will be of equivalently high calibre, but she will be a very hard act to follow. On behalf of all those in the industry, I should like to wish her well in the future.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Lord Palmer
My Lords, I do apologise, most sincerely, for speaking in the gap, but I would just like to seek reassurance from the Minister on one particular Scottish point of which I have already given him notice. I must declare an interest as Chairman of the Historic Houses Association for Scotland. The Scottish Tourist Board has recently introduced a grading and quality assurance scheme for visitor attractions, and at the moment this scheme is voluntary. There are rumours that, say, next year this scheme will be compulsory at a charge of £90 per visitor attraction. Many of my members feel they do not want their homes—and here I emphasise their homes—visited, inspected and graded. Can the Minister just assure me that if my members do not join this scheme, they will not be asked to withdraw their membership from their local tourist board? Once again I do apologise for intervening.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Lord Thomson of Monifieth
My Lords, I join with everyone who has spoken in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, for initiating this debate, and for doing so with that very special degree of authority he has in all aspects of the tourist industry. I do not think there have been many debates which have enjoyed 1177 two such expert maiden speeches as we have had this evening from the noble Lord, Lord Broughshane, and the noble Lord, Lord Feldman.
Like everyone else who has spoken, with the exception of the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, perhaps, I declare an interest—I am bound to say, as a member of the Nolan Committee, that I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Nolan, would be proud of the ringing declarations of interest that have come from all quarters during this debate—as chairman of the trustees of the charitable foundation that is responsible for maintaining Leeds Castle in Kent and making it available for the enjoyment of visitors from all over the world. As a plebeian Scot, I never thought I might in my declining years become a nominal laird of an English castle, all the more so since the most distinguished inhabitant it ever had—and I use the adjective advisedly—was King Edward I, the Hammer of the Scots, the villain of "Braveheart", referred to by my noble friend Lord Glasgow.
Therefore I want to start on a parochial note, simply using my experience at Leeds Castle as a typical case study of a small to medium-sized tourist business—that is what the Leeds Castle Foundation is these days—and how it can contribute to the national economy. I concentrate on what, if I were an economist, I would probably call the micro-aspects of the economic side of tourism and not the macro-aspects which, if I may say so, I thought were analysed splendidly by my noble friend Lord Thurso. I learnt some of the jargon and I was glad that my noble friend drew attention to the fact that counting heads is not wholly satisfactory for determining success of the tourist business and its contribution to our economy. I have learnt that one needs to pay attention to the per capita spend. It is very important to keep looking at that matter.
Leeds Castle is in a rural area where there has been considerable unemployment from other sources over recent years. Traditional agricultural employment has declined but we have been able to provide altogether 300 full-time and part-time jobs. Many of them are flexible jobs, attractive to both married and single women (which is very important these days) and we try particularly, being conscious of ageism in employment matters, to offer opportunities in part-time posts to people of 50 or 60 years of age.
We take training very seriously. The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, emphasised the importance of training. We do our best to train people. In my years on the Continent, I was often struck by the fact that waiters, chefs and those behind hotel desks were part of a proud profession, with a pride that I did not always find in this country in those days. That may be built up—I think it is—and the sooner it is, the better for all of us.
The local services around such places as Leeds Castle—the pubs, the restaurants, shops, garages, local small theatres and even the local churches—all benefit from the tourists who are attracted to the area. At Leeds Castle, like many other historic houses which have been mentioned during the debate, there is an interesting mix of visitors. Out of about half a million visitors, 50 per cent. come from overseas. So we make our own 1178 modest contribution to the nation's foreign currency earnings. Like other historic houses, we provide an important means of preserving the more skilled and, in some ways, more traditional crafts in the building industry. In all those ways the tourism industry, which, as has been said, is primarily an industry of small businesses, does a great deal to support the economy of the country.
I turn from that rather parochial analysis of one small tourist business to the issues raised by the report on the European dimension of tourism in the report of the Select Committee. I join with other speakers in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, and his colleagues for another interesting report from your Lordships' Select Committee. In some ways, the few sentences on the opening page of the committee's Opinion about the British tourist industry fairly well summarise the issues that should concern the Government. It says that:The significance of the tourism industry … is not sufficiently appreciated".That has come out again and again from the speeches this evening. It says that:tourism is not regarded as an industrial 'heavyweight', despite the fact that it stands out as one of the few substantial sectors with real potential for growth".It mentions figures recently given about the relative costs of providing jobs in the motor industry, and tourism is a vivid example of that. Finally, the committee said to the Government, through the report:While the industry itself must bear the main responsibility … the Government could and should do more to promote the United Kingdom as a tourist destination. A priority should be to give more resources to the British Tourist Authority … British tourism could be better promoted at all levels of government, and particularly overseas".The committee makes the very useful and practical suggestion that:Tourism officials should be more involved in the planning of overseas visits by Ministers and in other diplomatic activities".It calls on the Department of National Heritage to work closely with other departments.
I believe that there would be great advantage for all those associated with the tourism industry if there were more continuity in the Department of National Heritage on the tourist side of its activity and if senior civil servants stayed longer in post. Also it would help if the Minister of Tourism in the Department of National Heritage was a more high profile figure and ready to promote the interests of the industry.
I strongly support the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, about making the crown classification system work a great deal better. I was very interested in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, who made the case for a more rational and equitable regional policy in relation to government help towards tourism. I was in some embarrassment about it because, speaking as a Scot, I am happy to learn from my noble friend Lord Glasgow that the Scottish allocation of tourist funds has increased quite significantly while the English Tourist Board has suffered in real terms. Perhaps I may 1179 say to the Minister that there is a simple answer, which is to ensure that the poor old English do as well as the Scots in terms of government support in these matters.
Let me say a word about the European dimension. Noble Lords will know that I am a Euro-enthusiast. However, I felt that the report gave a well balanced verdict, with which I agree wholeheartedly. Certainly, I should not like to see a tourist Title added to the Treaty of Maastricht. Tourism is primarily a subject for subsidiarity. That does not mean to say that there is not a role for the Commission in a modest way to complement the activities of national tourist authorities.
I was amused and fascinated by the careful language in ministerial letters from the Secretary of State which the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, always studies. The Minister, who is not in any way a Euro-sceptic, said:We could accept the principle of promoting Europe".I warn her that those are very dangerous words for a member of the Government in the present sensitive circumstances. However, she went on very quickly indeed to say that:the European Commission's involvement does not seem to me to be necessary".I hope that the Government will reconsider that rather mild recommendation from the Select Committee and at least allow tourism to enjoy the status of a director, even with no additional staff and no additional money, within DGXXIII.
§ 5.48 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, let me begin with a triple "thank-you": first, to the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, for a splendid start, and secondly and thirdly to the two maiden speakers. Both the noble Lords, Lord Broughshane and Lord Feldman, showed us what this House most appreciates; namely, that noble Lords know what they are talking about. Their speeches were much appreciated and we hope to hear often from them in the future.
Tourism is far from being the most political or partisan of industries or departments. It will remain so during this debate. Yet it has been demonstrated during this excellent debate that, if the politics are muted, the strength or weakness of political will looms large. That perhaps marks a difference. "It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it" seems to me to be an apt theme song for our debate here today. It has been ably argued by many noble Lords today that the dimension of Europe looms large over tourism, as indeed it does over much of the financial, commercial, industrial, agricultural, artistic, environmental and sporting life, in general, in countries which make up the European Community.
The report presented as part of this debate is timely and welcome, and Lord Elibank and his committee have my gratitude for such a splendid, solid piece of work. There are many in the industry both inside and outside the House, who will value the contribution that has been made.
1180 My abiding impression from reading the report is that the committee has grasped a fundamental truth which has eluded the policy makers within the Government, and that is that the stature of tourism is all too often these days seen by the way it is perceived in the pecking order of government thinking. No matter how the tourism industry in its manifest form strives—and survives—and can be seen to prosper, when it is placed in one department of state or another and given a low profile, the signal that goes out to the world is that Britain does not take tourism seriously. That is a point that has been made by more than one speaker and lastly by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson.
That is why the committee had two things to say on this. First, in paragraph 100, it said:We do not believe that tourism is adequately represented within the Commission by the existing tourism unit. We therefore believe that the Commission should elevate the tourism unit to the status of a directorate within DGXXIII with an increase in staff and resources".That was a cry for up-rating tourism within the Community. Then, nearer home, in paragraph 95—something which is spot on and which has been echoed throughout the debate—it said:While the industry itself must bear the main responsibility, we believe that the Government could and should do more to promote the United Kingdom as a tourist destination. A priority should be to give more resources to the British tourist industry. We believe that the current division of resources between the BTA and the national tourist boards is inefficient and contributes to the United Kingdom's lack of visibility in overseas markets".Then, in paragraph 96, the report from the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, goes on to say:British tourism could be better promoted at all levels of government—and particularly overseas".That is not an astringent criticism but the unanimous voice that has been expressed here and in many other places outside the House.
If the Government are listening to a committee of this House, what will be the response to this reasonable plea? Can we expect the Minister to respond to what are sensible and cogent criticisms?
I would remind the Minister that it was a Labour Government in 1969 which introduced the Development of Tourism Act which created the tourist boards. We remain convinced about the importance of their activities in promoting the tourist industry. With the areas of transport, energy, environment, consumer affairs and the economy all impinging on tourism, it is clear that more consideration needs to be given to this important area which, at the moment, is treated by the Government with little coherence—another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson.
The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, quite rightly pointed out the inconsistencies which pockmark what passes for policy or strategy in funding tourism. A disaggregated industry like tourism needs government support and direction if it is to achieve its full potential. Recent cutbacks in British Tourist Authority and English Tourist Board funding—and I applaud their work—expose a short-sightedness from the Government. They have forgotten about or choose to ignore the importance of tourism.
1181 We have been told that Britain's tourism industry is worth over £36 billion a year. It provides 1.5 million jobs; 7 per cent. of all employment; and it is worth 5 per cent. of GDP. Britain must take greater advantage of the economic potential in the tourist industry. It will be the world's largest industry by the year 2000; yet Britain, by current predictions, will slip from fifth to eighth place in the world tourism league by the year 2000. If Britain had simply retained its share of the world tourism market over the past 10 years, over 200,000 more jobs would have been created.
Britain has a £4.5 billion deficit on its tourism balance of payments. That is why the recent cuts to the British Tourist Authority—and especially the English Tourist Board—seem so senseless. This short-term, budget-cutting measure will cost much more in the long term.
Our aim should be the creation of a clear, coherent government strategy. There are key issues which the Government should have on their agenda. First, coherence of policy-making across the many departments of government should be a primary objective. Secondly, a review of the existing policy framework and the methods for delivering it is needed—a review inclusive of the various opinions within industry.
Last week I attended a conference opened by the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Blair—an indication that Labour takes the future of tourism seriously. It was well-attended by many in the tourist industry. They did not moan—they will survive—but many voices called for stronger leadership from the Government. Despite survival, those voices also called for a radical review of structures; but mostly there was a cry for the Government to involve the industry much more in shaping those structures.
The charge they made is that the Government do not take seriously enough both the potential as well as the contribution that the industry makes. Why not? We should be determined that Government and industry work together, to market more effectively UK plc and to enhance our chances of improving our share of the continuing growth in global tourism. These are challenging, fundamental issues, and we should be focusing on them now.
At that same conference organised by the Labour Party, a representative from Touche Ross alluded to a study that in 1993 it had carried out on tourism policy in EU member states called Success Factors in European Tourism Policy. They identified a number of features which the most successful countries—Ireland, Portugal and France—had in common. I commend and recommend those features to the Minister and the Government.
First, those countries all had a clear, coherent government strategy for developing tourism. This Government do not. Secondly, they had a coherent central co-ordination of all policies affecting tourism, such as transport, cultural development and regional policy. This Government do not. In all three countries the government led private sector activity and acted as a catalyst for it rather than seeking merely to co-ordinate 1182 private sector initiatives. Thirdly, and most importantly, all three governments offered fiscal incentives to the private sector in the form of reduced VAT rates for small hotels and accelerated capital allowances. The revival of Ireland's tourism—in which overseas visitor expenditure grew at 10.8 per cent. per annum between 1980 and 1992, compared to the UK growth of 5.7 per cent.—coincided with the Irish Government's decision to cut VAT on hotels from 20 per cent. to 10 per cent. in 1983–84.
The British tourist industry is resilient, vibrant and successful; but it is capable of even greater things given a proper lead, which can only come from a Government with vision as well as a penchant for making a fast buck.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Lord Inglewood
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Montagu for tabling today's debate and thus giving me for the second time in just seven months an opportunity to discuss tourism, which is a very important subject. If it is of help to the noble Lord, Lord Bancroft, I come not from SW1 nor from Delphi but, hotfoot, straight from the European Council in Bologna.
I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Elibank for moving that this House take note of the Report of the European Community Select Committee on Tourism and the Community to which I shall return later.
I am sure that I speak for the whole House in welcoming my noble friend Lord Feldman and the noble Lord, Lord Broughshane, and congratulating them on their maiden speeches. Each pointed to the cross linkages between the arts, tourism and the heritage. They made a memorable contribution to our debate this afternoon and we look forward to hearing more from them in the months and years ahead.
Overall we have had a wideranging discussion which speaks a lot for those who moved the debate. Inevitably I cannot answer all the points that were raised. Instead I shall try to focus on some of the main themes which ran through what we heard this afternoon.
The terms of the question of my noble friend are very relevant to Britain today—To call attention to the contribution of tourism to the economy and employment".Tourism makes a huge contribution, and it should not be necessary to call attention to its importance; it should be self-evident and generally understood. Indeed, I suspect from listening to the debate this evening that that is becoming the case. But it cannot be denied that until now the industry's contribution has been too easily overlooked and undervalued.
As was recognised by all speakers, the economic importance of tourism is now at last being properly recognised and, without making a party point, we politicians are recognising it also. The CBI has moved tourism up near the top of its agenda and last November tourism was debated for the first time ever at a CBI national conference. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage—one of the industry's most fervent champions—gave a well received speech. Having heard the remarks of the noble 1183 Lord, Lord Graham, I might suggest that Tony Meher look at the Secretary of State as a suitable role model for an aspirant for her job and not as a predecessor whose record should be downgraded.
Much of the greater recognition that tourism is now receiving stems from the creation of the Department of National Heritage. Since 1992 the industry has had a more focused advocate in Whitehall than every before—a Cabinet Minister nearly all of whose responsibilities (the built heritage, the arts, museums and galleries, sports and recreation) have mutually beneficial linkages with tourism. That was a point made by the two maiden speakers, and, as my noble friend Lord Shuttleworth pointed out, has a wider significance, not least in the countryside in general, which was well illustrated by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth.
This is the second tourism debate in your Lordships' House in seven months, and there have been four tourism debates in another place during the current Parliament where there were none at all during the previous Parliament. That shows the success of the DNH in bringing tourism to the forefront of consideration by the Government and the wider world.
In his opening remarks my noble friend Lord Montagu suggested that we should not repeat the statistics. I gladly follow his advice in that respect. That is not to say that those statistics are not important; they are at the heart of what we are all discussing this afternoon. However, I do not want to be repetitious.
My noble friend's question goes on to refer to the,need for Her Majesty's Government to establish and co-ordinate long-term policies to ensure its continuing success".The Government fully recognise that need and are responding actively. We are determined to do all we can to enable the industry to improve its competitive position to win a growing share of the world market, and, let us be clear, it must achieve that at the same time as ensuring that we add value. More numbers should not be an end in themselves. I was interested that that seemed to be a view widely held across the Chamber.
We must maximise the contribution that the industry can make to our economy. As my noble friend Lady Seccombe pointed out, that must involve responding to changing fashions and demand in the market. But we in government cannot ensure success; we cannot deliver the tourism product; only the industry can do that. However, we shall continue in our efforts to create the right conditions for that success. There is a whole range of policies that contribute to creating the right conditions, which is a point emphasised by my noble friend and predecessor Lord Astor; for example, our commitment to a low inflation and a low tax economy makes the right climate for growth and investment; our resistance to inappropriate and unnecessary labour market regulations such as the European Union's Social Chapter and the statutory minimum wage which models social policy, labour relations policy and economic policy to the detriment of each. Those ensure that the best job creation record of the major European economies is ours.
1184 We introduced a new initiative to assist small firms, of which this industry is largely composed, as a number of speakers mentioned. A network of business links has been set up. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister recently announced a package of measures, including the streamlining of the tax and national insurance systems and the simplification of government business support schemes.
Further progress on deregulation is under way, which will bring new benefits to tourism businesses, adding to those flowing from the reform of food hygiene legislation and the relaxation of liquor licensing and Sunday trading laws. The National Lottery is helping to fund magnificent new projects which, among other things, will strengthen our appeal as a tourism destination. I am referring to the new Tate Gallery at Bankside and the Earth Centre in Doncaster.
Within Whitehall, my department's role is to represent the interests of tourism and to ensure that other departments take those interests into account when framing their policies which impinge on the industry. That is what my noble friend Lord Montagu asked for; we are doing that. The European Select Committee referred to that in its report on the involvement of the Community in tourism. The committee calls on the Government to ensure that the Department of National Heritage works closely with other departments, and, in particular, the Department of Trade and Industry. We are doing that.
Let me give some examples of the effectiveness of our active sponsorship. Responding to calls from smaller operators, we worked closely with the Department of Transport in drawing up the new regulations and guidance on white-on-brown tourist road signs, which remove arbitrary qualifying criteria. Our intervention contributed to the liberalisation of air services between the United States and this country's regional airports. We have effectively opposed harmful proposals in the European. Community's draft distance selling directive. My right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, sponsor tourist boards and the National Heritage Department works closely with their departments.
We seek to champion tourism's interests more effectively within Whitehall by improving communications with industry's representatives and our colleagues in government. But, to state the obvious, government is about balancing different interests and priorities. While tourism's growing economic importance gives it even greater weight in policy discussions, it is inevitable that many changes that the industry would like to see may not come about because other matters, we conclude on balance, take precedence. But let nobody be in any doubt: we will put the view of tourism as forcefully as we can.
As well as working within Whitehall, we seek to provide a strategic overview to help the industry plan its future, and we fund limited intervention to help the market work better. In carrying out that role we work with and through the statutory tourist boards which play a vital role in assisting the development of the tourism product and promoting it both at home and overseas. 1185 That is why we were so determined to maintain the planned budget for the English Tourist Board and increase the budget to the BTA, even in the difficult public expenditure round last autumn. I hope that that goes at least some way to answering the point made by my noble friend Lord Hertford.
Increasing funding for the BTA was something which the European Select Committee recommended. The ETB and BTA will together receive £45.5 million in 1996–97, which is an increase of £1 million over that for 1995–96, and that at a time when most other Department of National Heritage bodies are facing reduced resources.
My noble friend Lord Bradford mentioned the name of Adele Biss. I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the chairman of the English Tourist Board and British Tourist Authority, Ms. Biss, whose three-year term of office will expire at the end of May. She has made a valuable contribution towards strengthening the effectiveness of the statutory tourist boards during her time as chairman. Her strategic and analytical thinking set in place a sound framework for the future. She has overseen a major restructuring of the BTA, which has meant that its managers throughout the world are able to respond more quickly to market demands. She has also concentrated the energies of the ETB on improving the product and working more effectively with the non-statutory regional tourist boards. Her successor will have those very solid achievements to build on.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, if the record is so good, can the noble Lord tell us why she was not reappointed?
§ Lord Inglewood
My Lords, the chairman brought very particular and very valuable skills, which were very well employed, to the term of office that she held at the two tourist boards. We feel that different qualities may be those which will most effectively carry forward the industry in the future. It is those which we are looking to.
My department worked with the BTA and the ETB on a strategic overview of tourism which, as your Lordships will know, led to the publication last March of Tourism: Competing with the Best. Competing with the Best set out an initial programme of work, in partnership with the industry, to make British tourism more competitive. We are delighted with the very positive response which Competing with the Best has had and we are continuing to work with the tourist boards and the industry to follow it up. One of the key tasks identified was the need for better targeted overseas marketing as a means of increasing suppliers' access to markets with growth potential, including more emphasis on the promotion of London. Other priorities include strengthening the crown classification scheme, and a benchmarking project aimed at assisting accommodation providers to establish best practice. Good progress is being made.
My noble friend Lord Montagu and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, raised the question of London. Of course, Britain's greatest asset in attracting overseas 1186 visitors is our capital city. Over half of all trips to Britain include a stay in, or visit to, London and around 40 per cent. of overseas visitor nights are spent there. We must remember that London is in competition with all the major cities in the world. That is why we have provided additional money for the development of new promotional initiatives for London in overseas markets. In January this year, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, launched the new marque that will raise awareness of London as a modem "world" city with a great diversity of attractions.
London is the key to our continuing success in the world market. The new money we have provided will be matched by private sector funds to produce a new promotional push linked by the new marque. This will increase interest in London abroad and, as the main gateway to Britain, to the rest of the country. We want to encourage those who have already been to London to return and explore further afield, and to attract first-time visitors who will want to come back and see more of what our country has to offer. To do that we have to keep the image of London attractive and in the minds of potential visitors for if we do not, it will be a disaster for the capital and the rest of the nation.
London is the gateway, but, of course, Britain has so much more to offer. The British Tourist Authority is working with the regional tourist boards and others, to improve its already substantial overseas promotion of the whole of Britain, which, quite rightly, as has been mentioned this afternoon, has received many deserved accolades. What we need to do is to develop recognisable themes which will bring home to potential visitors what each region has to offer.
That is exactly what the BTA is doing in setting up regional consortia to provide a co-ordinated marketing effort which will maximise resources and create an identifiable theme specific to each part of the country. In that way, every part of Britain will he able to benefit from strategic and targeted marketing aimed specifically at the visitors who are most likely to act on information and make a visit. Developing a stronger image for the regions and reinforcing the message with specific marketing will also make it easier to encourage those visiting London to take a trip elsewhere in Britain.
The European Communities Committee's report suggested that all the promotion of the United Kingdom overseas would be more efficient if funding were concentrated in the BTA rather than having any separate provision for that work with the boards in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I was reassured in this context by the remarks from the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, about the success of tourism in Scotland. In the Government's response my right honourable friend the National Heritage Secretary has noted that the boards do in fact work very closely together, and have developed complementary branding for their marketing in much the same way as I was describing the brands which the English regions are developing. We are content that so long as the boards continue to work closely and constructively together those arrangements work satisfactorily for all parties concerned.
1187 The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, raised the matter of differential spending on tourism across the country. As the noble Lord knows, the home countries' Secretaries of State have discretion to spend public money in their areas of responsibility. That is not capriciousness, but a proper way of matching public expenditure—that is to say, everyone else's money—with the varying and different problems which face different parts of the country.
The noble Lord also raised the subject of regional selective assistance. Tourism projects are eligible for regional selective assistance grants. However, applicants for that assistance must not only meet the terms of the rules, in particular they must meet fairly stringent additionality criteria. They must not simply use subsidy to displace economic activity from elsewhere.
A second set of measures arising from Competing with the Best has to do with the quality and value for money of accommodation. Accommodation is the largest element of tourists' expenditure, and so a crucial factor in deciding what destination to visit. It is worrying, therefore, that research has shown that not enough of our overseas visitors are satisfied with the quality and value for money that they receive. Although the ETB's crown accommodation classification and grading scheme has gone some way towards raising standards, it has not yet reached its full potential.
Last year, my department asked the ETB to review the scheme to make it the guarantor of quality accommodation. The problem is that, viewed objectively, the operation of the existing classification schemes seems as likely to confuse as to assist visitors. That cannot possibly be in the country's best interests, as my noble friend Lord Astor pointed out. We must ensure the classification scheme arrangements convey clear messages to visitors. The English Tourist Board will shortly be presenting its proposals for a revised and strengthened crown scheme. We intend to consult the industry on those proposals before any decisions are made.
We are now adding further work to that which has already flowed from Competing with the Best. As has already been mentioned by a number of speakers, tourism is an industry which is very much dependent on people. We wish to study the role and the part played by people in the industry to see how they are employed, how they see and plan for their future, and how they see the industry itself developing. It is for that reason that the next initiative in the Competing with the Best scheme is going to be an examination of this part of the industry because we agree with my noble friend Lady Young and the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, on the importance of training. It is interesting to note the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, about the need for the status of those in the industry to be recognised as being real, wealth-creating jobs. I wish also to underscore the point made by my noble friend Lady Young, that this is an industry with very considerable potential for those in it, and it is one which is not dominated by qualifications.
1188 I have already touched on the Motion tabled by my noble friend Lord Elibank on several points. I now wish to say a little more about the inquiry and the report from the Communities Select Committee, I congratulate the committee on its work, and I welcome the report, with which I am very pleased that in so many respects we can concur.
The Commission's Green Paper on tourism which provoked the inquiry had as its main object consideration of the future involvement in tourism the Community might have. Much of the Community's work affects tourism. The Green Paper looked at four possible options for future involvement, and we believe what lay behind all that was the desire in some quarters for a full competence in tourism. This House's Select Committee did not believe that a new title for tourism was necessary, and the Government agree. That view was most interestingly endorsed by that well-known European enthusiast—but I would not like to take it too far—the noble Lord, Lord Thomson. I am sure that is very important evidence.
We believe that there would be real dangers to the tourism industry in greater regulation. Given that there was little indication in the Green Paper of what such a competence would be used for, we are not prepared to take such a risk. We do not, anyway, see the need for it. What we would like to see—and this is borne out by the committee—is a better sponsorship of the tourism industry within the Commission along the lines of our own department's activities here in Whitehall. Tourism has not received the status and recognition it deserves within the European institutions. That does not mean to say that I want to see more intervention in tourism. The Government agree with the committee in believing that what is necessary is for all parts of the Commission to be better informed about the consequences for tourism of policies and actions across the range of the Community's activities. That is the role which we see for the tourism unit in the Commission.
We do not go so far as the committee in believing that the tourism unit necessarily needs a higher status or more resources to achieve that. We should like to see the unit focus its attention on that sponsorship role, with less, if any, need to administer small-scale projects in which it has been involved in the past, and which in our impression have made very little impact.
In tabling today's debate, my noble friend Lord Montagu called upon Her Majesty's Government to,establish and co-ordinate long-term policies to ensure (tourism's) long-term success".The report which my noble friend Lord Elibank's Motion invites your Lordships' House to note makes a similar plea both from the point of view of domestic policies and at the European level.
The measures enshrined in the Government's tourism strategy are designed to help the industry in the immediate future and to bring long-term benefits to tourism, heritage, environment and the arts, whose futures are all so closely interlocked. We shall continue to pursue those policies vigorously. We shall continue to support the tourist boards. We shall seek to enhance our Whitehall lobbying role, working with other 1189 departments to foster a constructive approach to the industry across the whole gamut of policy-making. Similarly, we shall work in Europe to encourage the tourism unit to focus its attention on ensuring that, within the European Commission, the impact of policies and actions on the industry is taken fully into account. All that will help to fulfil this Government's ultimate aim of sharpening up the competitive edge of the British tourism industry and seeing that it enters the new millennium in excellent shape and able to fulfil the major part which it should be able to give to the economic well being of society as a whole.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Lord Montagu of Beaulieu
My Lords, my first duty is to thank all the speakers who have supported this debate this afternoon and particularly to add my congratulations to the maiden speakers. I thank the Minister for his reply. Many points have been raised and it is unreasonable to expect the Minister to answer them all in a short 20-minute speech. Perhaps he might like to write to some of the speakers about some of the points that they raised.
It has been a constructive debate and, generally speaking, free of party rancour. A lot has been said about our heritage and tourism, and I should like to flag up one final word of warning on that. Too often we take our historic heritage for granted, assuming that because the heritage has been there for centuries it will survive forever. However, increasingly, its survival depends on tourist income. Few heritage sites are actually profitable, and most cling precariously to viability.
There has been a tremendous growth in the number and range of new competitive attractions over the past 20 years. In fact, more than 60 per cent. of them first opened to the public during that period. Many of them are entirely commercial, such as the new theme parks that are designed for family fun. Family days out are no longer so readily taken at historic houses and museums as they once were. The competition for visitors comes not only from other attractions, but also from Sunday shopping and Sunday sport, while some available "disposable income" is channelled into the lottery. I recognise and welcome the lottery as a great source of support for some parts of the heritage, but I am anxious to see more of that investment going to the tourist potential of our existing historic assets rather than into new millennium dreams, often with pseudo-historic themes, that will attract visitors away from our genuine existing sites.
Let us not forget that the maintenance of our heritage sites must continue and, if they are not viable, one way or another the cost will come back to the public purse. In heritage circles it is still a matter of great concern that the majority of our most valuable and vulnerable historic sites are not eligible for lottery assistance because they are in private ownership, although they are of course still eligible for English Heritage grants.
I welcome the recent statement by the Secretary of State with regard to preservation trusts, but some properties cannot go down that road owing to existing 1190 family trust arrangements. I trust that the Secretary of State will continue to strive to find a solution to this problem.
Without doubt, however, we must expect Britain to be increasingly challenged as the world's favourite heritage destination for overseas visitors; consider the rich and as yet unvisited heritage of Eastern Europe, which is a slumbering giant about to awake and compete keenly for visitors.
Tourism, although it is a fragmented industry, has great potential to he even more successful than it has been up to now, providing wealth for our country and jobs for our people. However, we shall not remain successful in this ever more competitive world unless we invest our energies and the minimum but adequate public funding to make this happen. It needs long-term commitment and co-ordinated action.
I trust that the Government will continue their commitment to the industry. Of course we must have reviews, but in recent years we have had reviews of reviews of reviews. I say, "Give us the tools and let us get on with the job". I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.