The Minister mentioned the Rugby world cup, which is now just 500 days away. Will she join me in congratulating the 13 cities which will host the matches, and which are creating additional attractions for the Rugby fans throughout the world who will want to visit the birthplace of the game, where it all started in 1834 when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran?
I am delighted to congratulate the 13 host cities. My hon. Friend’s constituency, with its unique link to the birthplace of Rugby, has an excellent opportunity to benefit from next year’s tournament.
Tourism is a growth industry in the north-east, supporting 18,000 jobs in an area that still suffers from the highest levels of unemployment in the country. What is the Minister doing to support tourism in areas such as the north-east in the light of the forthcoming major sporting events, given that such events provide an excellent opportunity for its promotion?
I grew up in an area close to the north-east, and I know how fabulous it is. We have an excellent domestic tourism package, and VisitEngland has launched two brilliant “holidays at home” campaigns, which have generated millions of pounds of incremental spending. I hope that the hon. Lady’s constituency will benefit from that.
As chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on American football—and I declare my interest in that regard—I can tell the House that when it comes to sport-related tourism, I know of no sport that has the same potential. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the National Football League on hosting three American football games at Wembley this year, and will she welcome the visitors who will come to support the Miami Dolphins, the Oakland Raiders, the Detroit Lions, the Atlanta Falcons, the Dallas Cowboys and the Jacksonville Jaguars?
The Minister rightly mentioned the Tour de France, but will she also note the fact that the opening stages of the Giro d’Italia cycling race will take place in Northern Ireland next week? That is important in the context not only of world cycling, but of the Northern Ireland Executive’s efforts to bring major sporting events to Northern Ireland, thus greatly increasing the tourism potential of the Province.
I think it is fabulous that that event is to take place in Northern Ireland. Such events have huge benefits, not just for tourism but for the economy, and they are also a real inspiration when it comes to persuading people to take part in sport.