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Minister ‘optimistic’ about domestic tourism recovery

Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston is ‘optimistic’ about domestic tourism this summer amid recovery plans to ‘future proof’ and improve productivity of the sector.

Speaking at the launch of the five-year review of the Great West Way, a touring route between London and Bristol, Huddleston said it had been “an incredibly difficult year for the entire tourism sector”.

He said: “I am far more optimistic about the future. We have a vaccine programme and we know there is pent up demand domestically and from overseas for when we can reopen.

“We are focusing on reopening [domestic tourism] over the next few weeks, starting on March 29 and then from April. The ambition is to be much more open by June 21.”

Huddleston said a recovery plan for UK tourism was being developed to provide a roadmap for the short and medium term.

He added: “We will be working with the industry. We are talking to VisitEngland on this. It will look at how to reduce barriers to travel efficiency of the sector and how we can improve productivity such as seasonality.

“It’s very much looking to the future. We want to future-proof the tourism sector. We need it to be more sustainable and more innovative and use more data in a more innovative way.”

VisitBritain and VisitEngland chief executive Sally Balcombe believed the government would open up the country to international travellers in a “measured way” after May 17 but admitted the rising number of cases in Europe was “a concern”.

Balcombe said VisitBritain and VisitEngland would now focus on helping to ‘turbo-charge” the recovery of domestic tourism and was hopeful the government’s tourism recovery plan would provide financial support.

“There’s an expectation government will have some funding behind it; that’s our hope,” she said, adding: “We have to get people excited and thinking beyond the pandemic. We now need to think about how we recover. It’s our job to get behind the recovery.”

The Great West Way will be promoted heavily in the coming months, as part of the national tourism body’s Escape The Everyday At Home campaign, to encourage travel along the route whether by road, rail, bike or boat, and visits to attractions and towns on the way. An international tourism campaign will launch later in the year.

“We are working with tour operators and travel agents to get them inspired and get people booking,” added Balcombe, who described The Great West Way as a “compelling new part of the  tourism landscape”.

The Great West Way was funded by the £45.5 million Discover England Fund five years ago to help England stay competitive globally and promote lesser-known places alongside renowned world heritage sites. It now has 82 official tour operator partners, 1,800 engaged businesses and more than 200 businesses which have adopted branding of the route in their marketing.

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