Exclusive: MPs urge travel agents to promote UK holidays

Key tourism figures in the UK’s three main political parties have urged travel agents to support domestic tourism.

During an event at the House of Commons this week 30 MPs signed a pledge to back this year’s British Tourism Week, which runs from March 10-18.

Secretary of state for culture, media and sport Andy Burnham urged agents to sell domestic holidays. He said: “There is a whole market out there of people who want to  holiday in Britain and we shouldn’t assume UK tourism is a dying industry.”

He added that UK tourism has now recovered from recent issues including the recurrence of foot-and-mouth disease and last year’s floods, and should be further buoyed when the UK is passed the Olympic flame by China in August this year.

Tourism minister Margaret Hodge added: “Agents help people navigate through the choices and options open to them.

“If you’re spending a lot of money then you want to make sure you get the best value and advice possible.”

Conservative shadow tourism minister Tobias Ellwood urged agents to consider the benefits of driving UK holiday sales, adding: “This is no criticism of travel agents but when you go into any agency they’ll immediately tell you more about Spain than about Britain because their marketing is about holidays abroad.”

He reminded the trade that tourism is the UK’s fifth biggest industry, adding that if the Conservative party comes to power in the next election, he will be appointed as the
full-time tourism minister to drive the industry.

Liberal Democrat shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport Don Foster added: “Travel agents have a huge role to play in this, they will obviously continue to market holidays abroad but they need to find ways to market Britain to British residents.”

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also agreed to sign the pledge to support British Tourism Week, which highlights both the importance of and opportunities inherent in domestic tourism.

MPs answer call for help

VisitBritain head of government and public affairs Bernard Donoghue said those MPs signing the pledge were just a fraction of about 300 politicians expected to back British Tourism Week.

He added: “It is brilliant, not least because this shows that politicians understand that tourism is important to all political parties of the UK and it also provides an opportunity to highlight what tourism can do for Britain.”

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