Industry lobbying of government has improved, says minister

Industry lobbying of government has become “better organised”, but the travel sector remains “fragmented” with “different views expressed by different bodies”.

That is according to acting minister for tourism John Whittingdale, who argued the situation had improved since he was secretary of state at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in 2015.

Whittingdale told Travel Weekly: “There is better coordination. It’s something the industry has sought to address [and] we’ve definitely made progress.”

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He highlighted the Tourism Industry Council as “a forum for all players within the travel industry to raise issues with me and across government” and added: “There is also the ministerial group, and I’m able to raise specific issues with departments.”

In addition, he said: “The Tourism Alliance has been good at producing a manifesto for government and that is helpful.”

But Whittingdale suggested the sector remains fragmented. He noted the industry’s failure to speak to government with a single voice had been “a challenge identified” when he chaired the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee of MPs for 10 years prior to 2015, and he said: “It’s still the case.

“While the tourism industry is a huge contributor to the UK economy, it’s still fragmented. The industry is made up of a very large number of small businesses, [with] different views expressed by different bodies.”

He nonetheless stressed the importance of travel and tourism to the UK economy, insisting: “This an industry of enormous importance. Tourism is the biggest economic sector DCMS is responsible for, and we see it as our responsibility to grow the sector.”

Whittingdale noted: “Outbound travel represents significant employment and contributes to the UK economy.”

But he added: “My priority is to persuade as many international visitors as possible to come to the UK and persuade UK households to take domestic holidays.”

Whittingdale spoke at the Ministerial Summit at World Travel Market (WTM) in London at the start of this week and suggested: “The ministerial representation was considerably higher than last year. There were more than 40 ministers there.

“I was impressed to see so many countries come to London. The Summit focussed on education and training, and it was striking that the challenges are similar in other countries to here.

“We’re looking to develop a new accreditation for tourism. Ideally, there won’t be a break in the availability of courses, but that is out of our hands.

He noted: “So many of the issues [affecting travel and tourism] are out of our hands and determined by other departments.”

Whittingdale returned to DCMS in May 2023 as acting minister for media, tourism and creative industries as well as minister at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, providing maternity cover for minister Julia Lopez.

He said: “I was very happy to come back into the role. It’s an area of policy I’m very interested in.

“Unlike the vast majority of ministers, I spent my entire career in Parliament focussing on issues covered by DCMS and got to know a huge number of characters in the industry. I hope that is recognised in the industry.”

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