Domestic Tourism

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:17 am on 12th January 2021.

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Photo of Nigel Huddleston Nigel Huddleston Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 11:17 am, 12th January 2021

Absolutely—I agree with my hon. Friend. As I say, the very clear message from myself and from this Chamber today to those local authorities is, “Please be very generous with those grants for those sectors that have not been able to access support.”

Of course, the details of the latest grant schemes will come out very shortly. There will be swathes of the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors that will be clearly identified specifically for those grants; as I have said, they are for retail, hospitality and leisure. Large swathes should be covered. However, regarding those sectors and sub-sectors that are not covered already, I really hope that they will now be covered. I would like to see as many parts of the country covering those sectors as possible.

With the vaccination campaign under way, the Government will stand beside tourism through the pandemic’s finishing straight. Of course, we all know that now is the time to listen to the sector’s priorities for recovery, and to incorporate them into our thinking. I place on the record my deep thanks for the many stakeholders who have contributed, through the Tourism Industry Council and many others, and through their MPs, to help us develop the recovery plan for the sector.

In the short term, that means that we will allow businesses to reopen as soon as possible. We also want to ensure that where businesses are open, they can do so as profitably as possible, which also means stimulating consumer demand through marketing campaigns and removing pandemic-related barriers on travel as soon as it is safe to do so. My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay mentioned the important role of marketing both domestically and for inbound tourism, and that is exactly what we will be doing.

Further down the line, it is about making sure that we build back better. While we must first focus on assisting businesses through the immediate period, we have not lost sight of our long-term ambitions for the sector. We want to future-proof the tourism sector and are determined to play our part in developing a more sustainable, innovative and data-driven tourism industry. We will continue to engage with tourism stakeholders, including the all-important destination management organisations, which my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay Gentleman also mentioned; they play such an important role.

As we look forward to how we can effectively support the sector through covid and beyond, we will continue to develop the tourism recovery plan, which I mentioned, and we will be working across Government Departments in that. Of course, my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay knows from yesterday’s debate that I work very closely with the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend Paul Scully, and the Department for Business, who oversee the pubs, bars and restaurants side of the hospitality sector. It is a good thing that we have multiple Ministers advocating this sector, it all helps in the discussions that we have with the Treasury, who, I am sure, are listening to today’s debate.

On that line, my hon. Friend the Member for and St Austell and Newquay and others have voiced certain requests, for which I certainly have a lot of sympathy. With the VAT proposals, of course, I understand the need there—we are in discussions with the Treasury, which has already extended the VAT scheme once. With the loan schemes, changes have already taken place. I think the fact that the loan schemes have changed once, and the fact that the VAT scheme has already been extended, show that the Treasury is listening, and that is why debates such as today’s are always so useful.

I can assure my hon. Friend that the Treasury is listening; we are in constant dialogue and I appreciate all the lobbying work that the sector is doing, putting forward strong evidence to argue the case as well, which is very much appreciated. The fact that the sector has been so open with providing information and data in realtime has really helped to inform the Government’s decision making over the last few months as we have been dealing with the covid crisis. In fact, they have been extremely open, often giving information that otherwise would perhaps be very confidential and sensitive, and we really appreciate that openness. It helps us to make realtime decisions.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay also mentioned the importance of the longer-term programme for the issues of seasonality, the perennial issue of productivity and, indeed, concerns about the perception of the industry, which I know we all fight against. This industry is a fantastic sector. I have worked in it; he has worked in it for a long time. There are very fulfilling careers in this sector. We need to ensure that it is promoted and respected in the way that it should be.

I can assure hon. Members that the Government overall are listening. I believe the voice of the sector has never been louder and stronger, and I absolutely commit to continuing to work with all stakeholders and all colleagues to make sure that we further support our domestic tourism industry and put it on the pedestal that it deserves.

Question put and agreed to.

Sitting suspended.