Tourism (Terrorist Attacks)

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 5th November 2001.

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Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Conservative, Rayleigh 2:30 pm, 5th November 2001

If she will make a statement on the effects of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on the promotion of tourism to the UK.

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Transatlantic tourism has been badly hit as a result of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Airlines are reporting ticket sales down by between 20 and 30 per cent. on some key transatlantic routes. The impact on the British tourism market is severe, because transatlantic tourists typically spend £6 for every £1 spent by a domestic tourist. The fall in income could reach £2.5 billion this year, but a survey from the British Tourist Authority suggests that there will be a recovery in the second half of next year.

I have visited New York three times since11 September and have been in close contact with the BTA, its staff and agents of the American tourism industry. I should like to take this opportunity—I hope that the House will join me—to pay tribute to the BTA's staff who are based in New York. They showed courage and commitment in the days following the attack, helping stranded tourists to get home.

Photo of Mark Francois Mark Francois Conservative, Rayleigh

Is the Secretary of State aware that the BTA has estimated a fall in overseas visitor numbers of up to 25 per cent. for the final quarter of this year? Given the pressure that the industry was already under as an after-effect of the foot and mouth crisis, what practical steps are Ministers taking—other than earning air miles—to alleviate the industry's problems?

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The tourism industry was hit hard in a multitude of ways by the terrorist attack on 11 September. As the August figures showed a recovery on the previous year as a result of the additional investment in marketing that the Government provided to the BTA, terrorism struck when things were getting better for transatlantic tourism. However, the BTA and all the tourism agencies have worked closely with the Government and are investing £5 million in marketing Britain to destinations in Europe and beyond to attract visitors who want to enjoy the fantastic opportunities that Britain offers.

Photo of Barry Gardiner Barry Gardiner Labour, Brent North

May I remind my right hon. Friend of one of our more successful tourist venues, the Aldeburgh festival, which took place at the weekend? It is one of our major literary festivals and I am delighted to say that it was absolutely packed out. Will she congratulate all those involved in its organisation, including Michael Laskey and Naomi Jaffa, on producing such a successful event?

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I thank my hon. Friend for the opportunity to give my wholehearted congratulations to all those involved in the Aldeburgh festival.

Photo of David Burnside David Burnside UUP, South Antrim

Does the Secretary of State agree that there is no historical analogy with the last great disaster in tourism to affect the United Kingdom, which happened after the American bombing of Libya and events in Chernobyl? The recovery then was led by the airline industry. Does she also agree that £5 million expenditure is peanuts? If she does not authorise a massive increase in spending through the devolved Assemblies, her Department and the tourism authorities, the industry will not recover to benefit the UK.

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Having had the opportunity in New York to talk to the BTA and American tourism bodies, it is clear that marketing travel to Americans at the moment will not get New Yorkers who do not want to leave home and are afraid of flying on to planes. That is why the BTA's strategy of marketing Britain to other countries that are part of the major market for inbound tourism is right. It welcomed the opportunity to reallocate resources, and I hope that that, coupled with its commitment, will be borne out by an increase in the number of visitors to Britain.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge and Chryston

Does my right hon. Friend recall in her discussions with the BTA mention of one of its most successful publications linking film production to tourism? Given the increase in tourism at Alnwick castle after "Elizabeth" and in Sheffield after "The Full Monty", and given the success of the Harry Potter film, will she link both industries in the interests of both?

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I understand that the BTA has been involved in the development of a promotional film making precisely the link to which my right hon. Friend refers. We have also used football to promote British tourism in addition to the normal attractions of culture and heritage. So, the BTA is looking imaginatively at ways of marketing Britain, and I hope that that will be rewarded with the success that it deserves.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport)

My husband works for an American airline company, so the House will appreciate that I am only too aware of the effects on the promotion of English tourism caused by the tragedies on 11 September.

Does the Secretary of State accept that tourism numbers were already down before 11 September, in part due to the on-going foot and mouth crisis? The Government like league tables, and I have here one which may interest the Secretary of State. It shows bed occupancy levels in the English regions. She may not be aware that, in July, Yorkshire dropped to 10th in the regional table for bed occupancy, largely due to the on-going foot and mouth crisis. I hear what she says about the role of the BTA, but does she agree that there is an argument for the English Tourism Council being given a clear marketing role to promote tourism in the English regions?

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I welcome the hon. Lady to her new responsibilities on the Front Bench.

The hon. Lady will be well aware that the figures were down as a result of foot and mouth, but as I said in response to an earlier question, they were recovering, especially in transatlantic travel. Domestically, the picture is patchy. It is clear—in the work that we have been doing with leaders of the tourism industry, there is widespread recognition of this—that although tourism was badly hit by foot and mouth and then by the events of11 September, the industry also faces issues such as variable quality and standards and value for money. We are working closely with the industry to do everything possible to ensure that it emerges stronger from those two crises than it was before foot and mouth first hit.