West Midlands MP calls on Government to back tourism post-brexit

Nigel Huddleston MP for Mid Worcestershire has called on the Government to “formulate a positive future for UK tourism, outside of the EU but very much open to Europe and the world.”

Leading a Westminster Hall debate on ‘the potential effect of the UK leaving the EU on tourism’, the Mid Worcestershire MP called for:

  • A decision on Airport expansion in the South-East.
  • Negotiations on aviation deals, access and landing slots as a matter of urgency.
  • A review of Air Passenger Duty and the costs and processing of multiple entry visas.
  • A review of all EU regulations such as the Package Travel Directive.
  • Reconsideration of reducing VAT on tourism.
  • Consideration of increasing the budgets of Visit England, Visit Britain and the Discover England fund.
  • Ways to attract visitors outside of London - where 50% of all inbound tourism money is spent.

In the debate, Nigel said: “Our decision to leave the EU was a shock to many of our European friends and it could potentially be misinterpreted as meaning we are less welcoming of foreigners.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  And we must continue to show that we are a welcoming country. 

"Any additional burdens or restrictions on travel to the UK from Europe will have an immediate and negative impact on visitor numbers; and visa-free access from Europe for short leisure and business trips is certainly the desired long term aim from a tourism perspective. 

"The UK tourism sector is also highly dependent on overseas workers, not least in London where 70% of hospitality employees are EU migrants. These employees actively contribute to the UK economy and provide a high quality experience for visitors. The Government needs to seek to provide reassurances that these workers are welcome, are valued and that it is the Government’s intention that their right to stay in the UK will be unaffected by the referendum decision.

"There is no getting away from the fact that the access the UK currently enjoy comes from our membership of the EU.   This includes not only access to the EU market but those outside Europe - with the UK also benefiting from being part of the EU’s aviation agreements with other countries, including, crucially, the EU-US Open Skies Agreement.

We should be aiming to convince the 27 remaining members of the EU that it is in their interests as much as ours to maintain the aviation links that play such a key role in the prosperity of all of our nations.”

In her responding remarks, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, Tracey Crouch said: “The British people voted to leave the European Union and the Prime Minister has made clear that this will and must be delivered. The task is now to establish what this will mean for the UK and its people, and that includes the challenges and the opportunities currently being faced by the British tourism and hospitality industries.

"In short the sector has been going from strength to strength and Britain’s tourism industry is likely to see further benefits as travel to the UK becomes more affordable and attractive to EU countries and international markets, such as the USA – our highest value market.

"We should not forget the reason why tourism is so successful in this country. To put it simply we have a great deal to offer. We have extraordinary heritage, beautiful landscapes, great sporting events and some of the finest museums in the world. This will not change in a post Brexit world.

No matter what, the UK always remains open for business and we will offer a warm welcome to our visitors.”

Tourism is the UK’s fourth largest industry and our fifth biggest export earner. It contributes £127 billion a year to the UK economy and sustains more than 3 million jobs – or about 10% of the UK workforce. The industry incorporates more than 200,000 SME’s and over a quarter of all new jobs since 2010 have been in the tourism and hospitality sector.

Last year a record 36.1 million overseas visitors came to the UK and they spent a record £22.1 billion. 2016 figures show a continuation of this trend: with 21.1 million overseas visits between January and July – up 2% on last year.

Visitors from Europe play a key role in our inbound travel industry. More than 60% of overseas holiday visitors and more than 70% of business visitors to the UK were from the EU, including 0.9 million from Italy, 1.4 million from Germany and 1.9 million from France.

In 2015, domestic visitors spent more in Britain than ever before. £19.6 billion was spent by British residents on overnight trips in England, while the number of domestic trips exceeded the 100 million mark; that’s 11% higher than 2014. The West Midlands saw the biggest growth in both overnight trips - up 22%, and spending - up 26%.