UKinbound: What does the future hold for the UK tourism industry?
What does the future hold for the UK tourism industry?
Deirdre Wells, OBE, chief executive officer, UKinbound, updates on the developments.
The last few weeks and months have been a time of huge change and uncertainty for the country and for the UK tourism industry.
From the triggering of Article 50 to the horrific terrorist attacks in our cities, the Grenfell Tower fire and the recent general election and subsequent political turmoil – the resilience and innovation for which our industry (and country) is renowned has been needed more than ever.
How has my association provided leadership during these recent events and supported our members in these uncertain times?
After each terrorist attack, we cascaded security and safety information to members to help them protect and inform their visitors. We asked them to provide feedback on any impact on their business and passed this information to the Government so appropriate action could be taken and support given.
Secondly, we are carrying on with the ‘day job’ of helping our members to network and generate new business. Over the last 12 months we have organised a wide range of events designed to support our members wherever they are. Whether it was following the Game of Thrones trail in Northern Ireland; following in the artistic footsteps of Charles Rennie MacIntosh in Scotland; or marching to the tune of the Royal Marine Drum Corps at our 40th Anniversary Awards Dinner during our Annual Convention in Plymouth, our aim is to showcase the best that the UK has to offer.
The next 12 months will be no different with events and fam trips organised to The Roman Baths and to new attractions and tours within Bristol, Brighton and London. In April 2018, for the first time we will host the UK stand at Arabian Travel Market in Dubai and plan on taking over 20 of our members with us to the exhibition. We are really looking forward to showcasing the UK to buyers in the UAE and beyond.
Thirdly, we are continuing to ensure that our members concerns and views are heard on a number of key issues including the accessibility and cost of visas for our inbound visitors, jobs and career progression within the industry, the level of taxes such as Air Passenger Duty and VAT and improving the connectivity of our transport system – ensuring our visitors enjoy all the UK offers.
We have also ensured that our members’ priorities for the Brexit negotiations have been represented at every opportunity and at the very highest levels within Government (and will continue to do so).
We are pleased therefore that The Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP has been re-appointed as Secretary of State for DCMS and we look forward to continuing our dialogue with her and the newly appointed tourism minister John Glen MP.
Thanks to the more competitive exchange rate, the prospect of Brexit so far appears to have had a minimal impact on UK visitor numbers. The latest statistics show that more visitors than ever before have come and have spent record amounts. However, if these numbers are to continue rising and our industry to keep going from strength to strength, it is critical that the new Government understands the industry’s concerns and ensures that post Brexit, the UK maintains easy access for EU visitors and employees, and we have access to the Single Aviation Area, Customs Union and Single Market.
Another key focus for the Association is to ensure that the Tourism Sector Deal (part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy) due to be presented in September, supports the inbound tourism industry. I am part of the working group looking at ‘connectivity’ and we are exploring how we can improve our offer on visas, our ‘welcome’, transport infrastructure and route development including rail and aviation.
As always, this is a very busy time for the association particularly as it is our 40th anniversary year and we are taking every opportunity and event to remind our members and the rest of the industry how far we have come since 1977!