Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140
THURSDAY 26 APRIL 2001
140. I notice from your own figures that domestic
tourists spend four times the amount that international visitors
will spend in this country. If you do not have a marketing budgetand
I am conscious of the fact that I see on television or on billboards
adverts from the Scottish Tourist Board to go and visit beautiful
parts of Scotland, and from the Welsh Tourist Boardwho
is doing something for England, promoting what is available here?
(Mr Britten) Of course, there is a need
to market England, particularly for the British Tourist Authority,
who need to market England as a brand. There is a debate, as I
am sure you know, about whether England is a brand or whether
the regions should market themselves, and I think a great deal
of marketing in England to the domestic market should come through
the regions. They do not have enough marketing money either. It
is extremely important that they should be able to market themselves.
I do agree, and I have said, that I think there should be a national
budget as well, to promote staying in this country.
141. In England?
(Mr Britten) Domestic people, and Scottish
and Welsh people staying in England, to point out the excitement
that there is in staying in this country. Some of our research
recently, which we brought forward and have published, shows that
the leakage of domestic pounds overseas has been increasing and
accelerating, so that what we call the tourism deficit is now
in the order of £4 billion. It has deteriorated by about
£6 billion over the last three years. I believe there is
scope to encourage people not to go abroad but to stay in this
country, because it is very exciting to do so.
142. It is, but the amount of marketing that
is made available to people in this country to go abroad becomes
much more interesting in terms of weather, other opportunities,
costs of flights. You are making a case for the regions to be
able to work in promoting their own areas, but as I understand
from what we have heard this morning, that is in addition in Scotland
and Wales to what they already do. They market nationally, but
they also market on a regional basis as well.
(Mr Britten) They market their regions
to domestic consumers. I would like to see much more of it. I
would like to see Yorkshire marketing itself, I would like to
see the South West marketing itself, but in addition to that,
as well as marketing, I believe there is a structural requirement.
I have talked about the availability of information. You have
not only got to have a good product, but you have to make it easy
to buy. It is not as easy to buy tourism in this country as it
is sometimes to just fly overseas. That is something that needs
to be addressed, partly through information technology, partly
through transport. There are big issues to make tourism easier
143. What are you going to do to help negotiate
with other agencies on behalf of the regions? For example, one
of the things I heard in the Lake District was the sheer cost
of the train from London. It is prohibitive. For what it would
cost you, you could buy a flight to New York.
(Mr Britten) That is true.
144. What are you doing to negotiate on behalf
of all of the regions in the country with transport agencies,
rail companies, bus companies and airlines, to try and provide
a better, more efficient and cost-effective system of transport
(Mr Britten) I am hoping that we shall
get some very clear ideas on that from the transport task force
that we set up, which is going to report within a month. We set
up four task forces looking into various aspects, and the transport
task force is about to report on the things that can be done.
I really believe that some of the issues there are so big that
it will be very difficult for us to approach them, but we ought
to be able to pick off some easier things. The BTA did a very
good job recently with something called "First Impressions".
We have to get better linkages, better connectivity between one
form of transport and another, for example. Costs are extremely
difficult to address, but, of course, we can keep shouting about
them and are glad to do so. I am not sure that my voice will be
any more than a drop in the ocean, but I will try very hard because
tourism is a huge industry and a huge economic driver.
145. Is that not exactly the problem? Whilst
you may be shouting, it is barely audible outside. It is just
not enough for you to do that when you have no marketing budget
at all. Had it not been for foot and mouth disease, you would
have been in the situation without any additional money at all,
but with a need still to promote England in comparison to other
attractions available to visitors in this country. What are you
doing to continually argue to the government that we need to have
more money available to the tourist industry and a much more co-ordinated
approach to tourism to make sure that tourism is much higher up
the political agenda?
(Mr Britten) We do do that whenever we
(Ms Lynch) On the marketing issue, certainly
the message that we are given regularly is that the Treasury believes
that tourism is a successful industry and does not merit support
from the public purse. That is a very strong view, and it has
been evident in our discussions with them in the last few weeks.
I do not think you should be in any doubt about the energy that
we put into arguing the caseand it is not just ourselves;
it is industry associations, individual businesses, MPs, as well
as this Committee. We have all been trying to make the case for
some time, but we are fighting against a very strong view about
the industry, that it does not need support. On the second point
on marketing, how we address the issues, one thing I would say
is that the analysis we produced in January looked at England
as a destination as the customer sees it. It is very important
that we do not fool ourselves. We have to be realistic about what
we do extremely well and what are our disadvantages. We do have
a disadvantage with the weather, and we do actually have a disadvantage
with cost. Those are some givens. We may be able to work at the
edges of that, but you have to ask how we can present a proposition
to customers which will be perceived as high value to them. There
are lots of ways of doing that, many of them outlined in the document
we presented in January, but you have to sell to the customer
a proposition that they are willing to hear. The biggest opportunity
is in selling the idea of extra things that you can do. I firmly
believe that foot and mouth has demonstrated that actually, tourism
begins at home. If we do not feel proud enough of what we have
to visit it ourselves, we will never succeed in selling it overseas,
and therefore we need to actually position what we have in a way
that is very appealing to people who live here. If it works for
them, it will work for everybody else.
146. If we did not already know, we certainly
know now that there is not a lot of taxpayers' money going into
publicising tourism. I get the impression that the British meat
industry is subsidised tremendously, certainly much more than
the tourist industry, yet it appears, with BSE and foot and mouth,
to have done tremendous damage to tourism. Am I somewhere near
right in that statement?
(Mr Britten) I believe you are right.
I do not know that either. The tourism industry, as Mary has said,
suffers from the fact that it is growing, and that sounds like
good news, but it is actually not good news because we are not
growing nearly fast enough, and it suffers from the extreme fragmentation
of it. One of the reasons I believe it has not had proper attention
is because there are not these clumps of assets and people like
there are in the motor industry or in shipbuilding, where something
dramatic happens and everybody looks at it.
147. The shipbuilding industry in this country
is practically dead. The motor industry has declined almost exponentially.
Your industry, this kind of service industry, is what is replacing
manufacturing industry as the motor of this country's economy.
It is simply not good enough to say that has happened to them.
You are at the forefront of one of the most important industries
this country has, and what one is looking for is some sense of
urgency, commitment and zip.
(Mr Britten) I have to say I agree entirely
with that. I think the country has not yet come to terms with
its transition into a service industry. The tourism industry is
a major leader of it and I go along absolutely with everything
you are saying; I welcome it hugely. I was trying to explain to
the questioner why I thought that the subsidies did not come to
the tourist industry, because it does not catch the eye. We have
to work extremely hard, and we are working hard.
Chairman: I should add, by the way, that
I was ministerially responsible for five years for the shipbuilding
industry and the motor manufacturing industry, and what has happened
to them may be a consequence of that.
148. Following the present crisis, will part
of your advice be to have a look at the British meat industry?
Do you think that in 25 years' time it will seem extremely strange?
Is it an industry that, for healthy eating purposes, should be
on the decline? Are you going to make that point and compare it
with the tourism industry, that we need to redress the balance?
(Mr Britten) I would really like to concentrate
on the tourism industry. It stands on its own feet. It is huge,
it is dynamic, it is growing, it is something that employs masses
of peopleit has created one in four of the new jobs in
this country. It is an industry which would repay amply Treasury
investment, and I think we should concentrate on that rather than
perhaps make comparisons with others. It stands on its own feet.
Mr Keen: I agree with that, but surely,
with the damage to the tourism industry that has been caused by
the British meat industry, it must be part of your advice to government
to have another look at the pinnacle at the top of which we have
placed our meat industry for so many years traditionally. I have
great sympathy with the farmers; I am not attacking them, but
we have to have another look at it, do we not?