Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Eighth Report


1. Tourism is the UK's fifth largest industry. It employs over 1.4 million people and generates at least £85 billion for the economy per annum.[1] Due to the importance of the industry to the UK economy, tourism is a topic that this Committee's predecessors have tended to revisit every few years. While the last inquiry mainly focused on the structure of the industry,[2] this inquiry is broader, examining issues from governance and funding, to skills and the environment. We consider a number of challenges and opportunities for tourism in the UK, not least those presented by the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.

2. The Committee's inquiry into tourism has been long-running, with the initial call for evidence made in January 2007. The terms of reference we announced were as follows:

  • The challenges and opportunities for the domestic and inbound tourism industries, including cheap flights abroad, and their impact on traditional tourist resorts;
  • The effectiveness of DCMS and its sponsored bodies (such as VisitBritain) in supporting the industry;
  • The structure and funding of sponsored bodies in the tourism sector, and the effectiveness of that structure in promoting the UK both as a whole and in its component parts;
  • The effect of the current tax regime (including VAT and Air Passenger Duty) and proposals for local government funding (including the "bed tax") upon the industry's competitiveness;
  • What data on tourism would usefully inform Government policy on tourism;
  • The practicality of promoting more environmentally friendly forms of tourism; and
  • How to derive maximum benefit for the industry from the London 2012 Games.

3. The Committee has gathered a broad range of views, both in written and oral evidence, over the past eighteen months. In fact, the inquiry ranks as one of our largest, with over 100 submissions of written evidence and eight oral evidence sessions. The witnesses at the oral evidence sessions represented the different interest groups in the industry. They included local authorities, Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), tourism associations, private businesses, marketing bodies (including VisitBritain), specialists on tourism statistics, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

4. In addition, in March 2008, we spent two days on a visit to the South-West of England, with the majority of our time spent on the "English Riviera" in Torbay. It provided an excellent opportunity to see at first hand the challenges facing a traditional seaside resort during the low season. During the visit we met the owners of local attractions such as Paignton Pier, Kents Cavern caves, and Crealy Great Adventure Parks. We also held a public oral evidence session in Torquay, where we took evidence from a number of key figures in the local tourism industry.

5. In May 2008, the Committee visited the United States. This visit was primarily related to another Committee inquiry into harmful content on the Internet and in video games. Nevertheless, the Committee also met representatives from VisitBritain's Los Angeles office as part of its tourism inquiry.

6. Finally, tourism was the subject of a recent edition of the BBC Radio 4 phone-in programme, You and Yours.[3] The Committee's inquiry was a specific focus of the programme. The many and differing views of those that called in provided one final angle to our evidence: the opinions of the consumers themselves.

1   Ev 196 Back

2   Fourth Report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Session 2002-03, The structure and strategy for supporting tourism, HC 65 Back

3 Back

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Prepared 10 July 2008