Comment: Tourism offers so much more than just a ‘starter job’

New minister for tourism Helen Grant vows to make sure a UK tourism sector that employs so many young people and women must be helped to continue to grow and flourish

Our tourism industry helps us sell Britain, helps contribute to economic growth, drive investment and is a key part of our reputation around the world.

Last week I joined VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues and spoke at an event to launch a report by Deloitte – ‘Tourism: jobs and growth’.

The report makes for positive reading and illustrates just how much potential the industry has in terms of job creation, growth and the government’s number one priority – deficit reduction.

The tourism sector supports three million jobs across the UK, totalling 9.6% of employment, in an industry forecast to be worth £127 billion a year at the end of 2013.

However, this new report predicts that with massive opportunities in inbound tourism from emerging markets such as China the industry could be worth £257 billion by 2025, accounting for just under 10% of GDP and supporting 3.8 million jobs.

Since becoming minister for tourism in October I’ve met many people with incredible stories about the value of the sector.

I’m sure many of us got our first job in tourism and hospitality. I know I did.

I was a waitress in an Indian restaurant during my university holidays, and I certainly learnt many essential skills like customer service, prioritisation of demands, working under pressure. Indeed, I still draw on many of these skills today as a government minister.

Tourism is a large employer for women, which with my ministerial brief also covering women and equalities, gives me great pleasure.

It is also a huge employer of young people, with 44% of those employed by the industry being under the age of 30.

However, we need to get away from the line of thinking that tourism is just a ‘starter job’ and show that it can offer a career ladder that has, for many people, gone from front line service to senior management.

The commitment of the industry to creating jobs and supporting young people has been brought into sharp focus by the British Hospitality Association’s ‘Big Conversation’.

It has committed to creating 300,000 new jobs by 2020. 1,000 employers have already pledged to create 5,000 jobs and 15,000 apprenticeships. It’s initiatives like this which will help to realise the true potential outlined in the report.

We now have the evidence of what can be achieved, and government and business must continue to work in close partnership.

The sector delivers a world-class offer – from hotels, to restaurants and museums.

Government will market this hard at home and abroad, but along the way we will continue to review policies, to ensure the tourism industry continues to grow and flourish.

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