HL Deb 13 November 2001 vol 628 cc449-51
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

My Lords, in begging leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, perhaps I may declare an interest as honorary president of the Southern Tourist Board.

The Question was as follows:

Whether Her Majesty's Government will now give the English Tourism Council the responsibility and adequate finance to market Tourism for England in close co-operation with the regional tourist boards.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, Tomorrow's Tourism did not give the English Tourism Council a role to market England. However, in the light of events this year and recent consultations which the Secretary of State has had with senior industry representatives, we are currently reviewing the options for stimulating better co-ordination of the public and private sector funds currently spent on marketing tourism in England.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Although it is certainly a step forward, why does not England have a tourist body of its own which can speak for it? With the BTA it co-operates with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish tourist boards which have their own rights, but England does not.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, indicated, he has close relations with the southern regional development agency. The regional development agencies are charged, and have been funded with resources, to improve the marketing of tourism in England. We cannot be doing so badly because it is still the case that expenditure by tourists in England substantially outscores the spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Therefore, the present strategy has something to commend it.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, tourism in England is a business with a turnover of approximately £53 billion. Does the Minister agree that it is odd that the business should allow its marketing to be done by its subsidiaries, in this case the regions? Does the Minister further agree that now is the time to introduce a central marketing strategy? Yesterday we had a most interesting debate on the National Trust. Should not such bodies be brought in to assist in such a strategy?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, during the foot and mouth outbreak, which resulted in a decline in visitors from abroad and elsewhere, an increased role was created for the English Tourism Council in relation to marketing abroad. However, it is thought that marketing aimed at British tourists is done better by concentrating on the specific English regions—for instance, the Lake District—rather than speaking about England as a whole.

Lord Tanlaw

My Lords, are the Government doing more to encourage broadband access to the Internet through availability in the regions in order to promote, for instance, tourism and industries which are alternatives to farming?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, I am the first to confess to not being totally familiar with the arrangements for broadband in this dimension. However, I want to stress that it is important that the industry and all our tourism and heritage developments are not looked upon as employing fuddy-duddy technology. That is far from the case. The most modern technology is used to promote what is an important industry and earner for this country, as the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, indicated.

Lord Roberts of Conwy

My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will agree that the timing of any marketing efforts by English, Scottish and Welsh tourist boards abroad is most delicate. What guidance are the Government giving to those boards with regard to marketing efforts abroad?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, we are all conscious of the fact that the latest tragedy in the United States will not have encouraged the use of airlines by tourists from America to the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. We recognise that the US is an important market, and of course the issue must be approached with great sensitivity. However, during the problems we had with the foot and mouth outbreak earlier this year, we indicated the importance of co-ordinating all efforts and ensuring that arrangements were in hand to recoup potential losses in terms of visitors here.

The Secretary of State has been in close liaison with leaders of the industry, particularly the CBI, in order to ensure that the industry comes together in one body to promote tourism. That is of great importance to us all.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, does the Minister agree that, in any advertising abroad, the merits of the whole country—Wales, England and Scotland—need to be stressed? Further, does he agree that perhaps there has been a lack of stress on Scotland and Wales, as the noble Lord has just told the House that much more money is spent by tourists in England?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, the noble Lord will recognise that the advantages of devolution have enabled the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales to devote greater resources to marketing their own excellent tourist facilities When one talks about tourism from overseas, particularly the American market, it is important that co-ordination is effected on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom. The noble Lord will recognise that in the promotion of tourism increased efforts on the part of everyone—the Scottish and Welsh dimension and the regional development work in England, for which additional resources have been made available—all contribute to a greater whole.

The Lord Bishop of Durham

My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the best advertisements for tourism in this country are the cathedrals and churches? Therefore, will the noble Lord incorporate those both in the publicity and consideration by the Government of increased financial help for those buildings?

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, if the glory of the cathedrals did not speak for itself the right reverend Prelate has certainly done so on their behalf. We know that a very high percentage of tourists enjoy our national heritage, of which inevitably ecclesiastical architecture and cathedrals, and all that they represent, are a very important part.

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