Jeff Smith at the Tourism Industry Conference 2022

This week, Jeff Smith MP gave the keynote speech at the Tourism Industry Conference 2022, in his capacity as Shadow Tourism Minister.

Jeff accused the Conservatives of leaving tourism workers, businesses and communities in the doldrums, as he warned that the UK’s tourism industry is facing a perfect storm. The sector is grappling with a slow recovery from Covid, the impact of the Conservative cost of living crisis, rising energy bills and inflation, and a lack of focus and support from the Government to compete in the international tourism market. 

Tourism has historically been a big growth sector for Britain, creating jobs and prosperity for communities across the country, and showcasing our proud history and culture to tourists at home and from abroad alike. Yet a decade of Conservative failure to support the industry means that our vital tourism ecosystem has been struggling. 

In his speech to tourism sector leaders from across the UK, Jeff highlighted the challenges facing the industry, including:

  • Analysis from the House of Commons library showing that over 130,000 jobs in tourism related sectors have been lost since 2019. 
  • Visitor numbers for inbound tourism are still significantly lower than before the pandemic. VisitBritain forecasts that UK tourism will not return to pre-pandemic levels until 2025. But those predictions were made before the energy crisis and rising cost of living started to bite.
  • Visitor spending was 10% below May 2019 levels. 
  • The government’s failure to back British business and the UK as a top visitor destination is illustrated by reductions in VisitBritain’s core budget which has been slashed by 35% since 2010. Destination Management Organisations, the local bodies who manage regional tourism marketing and strategy, have seen their median total income fall from £324k in 2017/18 to £214k in 2021/22. Meanwhile, cash-strapped local authorities in England are now spending less than half the amount on tourism than they spent in 2010/11.
  • The ONS found that the UK’s transport and hospitality sectors were among the top five highest energy intensive sectors meaning they will be particularly vulnerable to the energy crisis. The most recent figures show that twice as many hospitality businesses are worried about energy bills than the national average, with more than a third of hospitality businesses like pubs, restaurants and hotels thinking they could go bust by early next year.

In his speech Jeff praised the tourism sector and promised a new partnership as Labour engages with the sector to plan for government, focused on helping tourism to grow sustainably, tackling barriers to trade, and working with the sector to drive prosperity in rural and coastal communities across the country, as well as towns and cities.  

Jeff also highlighted Labour’s plans to support tourism businesses, including through the Party’s pledge to cut and eventually scrap business rates, replacing them with a new system fit for the 21st century. Labour believes this will provide vital relief to UK tourism businesses.

Jeff Smith MP, Shadow Tourism Minister, said:

“Our tourism sector is a British success story. People travel from around the world and across the country to experience our remarkable cultural heritage and world-renowned live events – British attractions, British music, British sports, British fashion, British theatre and shows.

“But the sector is facing a perfect storm, the Government continues to hold back its recovery from the pandemic, and rising energy bills and the cost of living begin to bite.

“Labour in Government will give tourism the focus and recognition it deserves, listening to the experts and building a new partnership to address these challenges.”

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