Industry outcry as UK Government ‘downgrades’ tourism

The travel industry is putting pressure on the Government to rethink a reshuffle which has spelled the end of a dedicated minister for tourism.

It had been confirmed that John Penrose, who stood down from his role as Tourism Minister this week, will not be directly replaced.

Instead, Sports Minister Hugh Robertson will take on responsibility for tourism.

ABTA chairman John McEwan has written to the Prime Minister to express the association’s “serious concerns” about the move and to seek David Cameron’s personal assurance that the reshuffle does not constitute a downgrading of the tourism portfolio within Government.

The travel industry had lobbied for a dedicated minister for tourism and was finally rewarded when Penrose was appointed in 2010.

Here’s what industry leaders had to say about this week’s changes:

Tourism Society chairman David Curtis-Brignell
“It is appalling that this was allowed to happen when the Prime Minister has on many occasions spoken of his support for the fifth largest industry. We were thrilled when David Cameron made his “importance of tourism” speech in the first 100 days of his premiership, but was the Prime Minister’s support for Tourism just lip service?”

ABTA chairman and Advantage Travel Centres chief executive John McEwan
“After the positivity of London 2012, the opportunity to build tourism is unparallel and this is precisely the moment where we should be seeing more energy from the Government. I can’t identify any other countries where tourism is such a key segment of the economy but where the responsibility for tourism is designated in this way. I am sure Robertson will do a great job, but it’s not the same as having a person solely responsible for tourism. I am shocked and susprised.”

Derek Moore, chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators
“To have tourism downgraded in this way after such a short period of time leaves us wondering if Government really gives due recognition to the huge tax income it gains from corporation tax, VAT on Tour Operators’ Margins, employment taxes and more via the travel industry.” Click here for AITO’s full comment.

Mary Rance, CEO UKinbound
“We are disappointed by the Government’s lack of commitment to tourism and they are again overlooking the contribution that tourism makes to UK Plc. With the income generated each year by tourism estimated to be worth £115 billion to the economy and with the Prime Minister himself identifying the industry as “fundamental” to rebuilding Britain’s economy, the decision to add tourism, as an afterthought, to Hugh Robertson’s department, and with the newly appointed Secretary of State Rt Hon Maria Miller MP splitting her time between DCMS and the Department for Equality, seems to directly contradict their pledge to support the industry.”

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer
“The Prime Minister has repeatedly said that he sees tourism as a key industry in the rebuilding and rebalancing of the UK economy and if this is to be achieved, it is vital that there is clear leadership in place so that the tourism legacy from the Olympics is fully maximised and the contribution from outbound, inbound and domestic tourism properly understood and recognised.”

Tom Jenkins, chairman of European Tour Operators Association
“ETOA is dismayed to learn that there is no longer a dedicated ministerial role and tourism is now just one third of the Sports Minister’s portfolio. ETOA wishes to thank Mr Penrose for his good work on behalf of the industry. We are calling for the role to be moved to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The industry is third in terms of UK exports after the chemical and financial services sectors, contributing £17bn to the UK economy and £3bn to the Exchequer.”