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Comment: A blueprint for a swift recovery

Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston explains the government’s Tourism Recovery Plan

When I took my first job at Woodcock Travel aged 16, I was quickly taken in by the joy and excitement of holidays. Over the past year, we’ve all missed that feeling of having a trip to look forward to whether it’s a weekend city break or a week by the sea.

But no one has felt the lack of holidays like those working in the tourism industry, which is why we’ve provided over £25 billion in support throughout the pandemic to the tourism, hospitality and leisure sector.

The past year has been incredibly challenging, but I’ve continually been impressed by the ability of those in the sector to adapt to the fast-changing circumstances forced on us by the pandemic, whether by quickly adapting to new safety protocols, turning their hand to supporting the pandemic response by opening vaccination centres in event venues, or capitalising on opportunities to engage visitors virtually to drive future bookings.

To help get our brilliant tourism industry back on track and build back better in the months and years to come, I’m proud to launch the UK government’s Tourism Recovery Plan.

It is a blueprint for how the sector can recover swiftly and then emerge from the pandemic to be more resilient, more sustainable, more inclusive and more innovative.

The plan will help us recover domestic tourism to 2019 levels by 2022 and international tourism by 2023 – both at least a year faster than independent forecasts predict.

Thanks to the success of the vaccine roll-out, many domestic tourists have embraced the staycation and it’s not hard to see why. The UK has something for everyone, from scaling Scottish mountains to riding the London Eye.

But with the slow return of international travellers, we know we need to go further to make sure the sector can bounce back. That is why I’m encouraging everyone to be a tourist in their own city or region and to travel somewhere new and show their support for British tourism this summer.

Then to encourage people to get out and about after the peak summer season, the Tourism Recovery Plan includes a new £10 million voucher scheme, to be launched by The National Lottery in autumn this year, giving National Lottery players the chance to claim a voucher redeemable at tourist attractions across the UK between September 2021 and March 2022.

We’re also making travel easier and more sustainable. We’re working on a new rail pass for UK tourists, due to be introduced later this year, that will enable flexible travel by train so people can travel the length and breadth of the country hassle free.

Our tourism sector is dynamic, constantly adapting to innovations and changes in consumer demand, including the rise of short term holiday rentals.

This ‘sharing economy’ plays an important role in attracting tourists to destinations across the country and contributing to the UK economy, but we need to better understand the accommodation landscape and its impact on local economies and communities.

As part of our recovery plan we will consult on the introduction of a Tourist Accommodation Registration Scheme in England that could help us target further government interventions in the future.

Covid-19 has hugely affected England’s Domestic Management Organisations (DMOs), in particular those which depend on commercial income from business members and corporate partners.

Our brilliant DMOs do vital work to support and drive English tourism locally, regionally and nationally. In recognition of this, the Tourism Recovery Plan includes the government’s independent review of the structure, funding and performance of DMOs in England which was launched in March 2021.

The review will make recommendations on how best to support DMOs at a local level so they can continue to deliver for local tourism.

One of the hardest hit sub-sectors of the industry has been business travel and business events are an important part of our tourism offering. That is why the plan includes specific action to help the UK return swiftly to its pre-eminent position as a European leader for business tourism, including the creation of an ambassadorial network to promote the UK as the world’s meeting place.

Our tourism sector has so much to offer and contribute and I know it will be central to our economic recovery.

The Tourism Recovery Plan will help ensure the sector is fit for the future and I look forward to working with stakeholders across the industry to make the British tourism offer better than ever.

This summer we’re supporting the British public to visit somewhere different – whether exploring our vibrant cities or heading to a rural retreat. Tourism businesses across the UK are ready and waiting for us all to return.

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