Tourism minister Rebecca Pow outlines why the new tourism sector deal is vital in preparing for the influx of international visitors in the coming years.
Having worked closely with tourism businesses, trade bodies, destination management organisations and VisitBritain, we launched the UK’s first tourism sector deal last week.
Tourism is one of our country’s greatest economic powerhouses. Worth nearly £70 billion a year and employing 1.6 million people, our sector is of huge importance to the nation.
Almost 40 million international visitors come to the UK every year and the deal is about making sure that we offer them the best possible welcome. This number is set to increase by 9 million by 2025 and our deal will be important in preparing us for this influx by committing to building 130,000 new hotel rooms.
Last year, the highest portion of investment in hotels in Europe was in the UK and this week I visited The Newt in Somerset to see an excellent example of private investment in our sector. I had a tour of the beautifully laid-out gardens and saw the hotel and cyder house which are currently under development and expected to open this summer.
The deal will also deliver 10,000 new apprenticeships in the sector per year, providing crucial training for our catering and hospitality workforce so we can make sure that we are providing a world-class, professional service delivered by highly-skilled employees.
The new tourism data hub will help businesses better understand overseas visitors by analysing what visitors book, how they book and why they may choose not to book, so that companies can offer the most attractive, competitive service. I am delighted that companies such as Hilton, Airbnb and Tripadvisor are working with us to develop this idea.
Of particular importance to me is the focus on removing accessibility barriers for visitors with disabilities. A lot of great work is already being done by business all over the UK, however, last year nearly 500,000 Brits cited ‘lack of accessibility provision’ as the reason they did not take a domestic trip.
We want this to change so that provision for those with accessibility issues is at the forefront of people’s minds in the sector. We will continue to work with you so that we can make the UK the most accessible destination in Europe. Together, we will hold a conference designed to share best practice so that we can take the first step on this journey.
I am delighted that the government has the support of industry for this deal. It sets out our ambitions and how we will get there. I have no doubt that by working together we can do everything our deal sets out to achieve and more.
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