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Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the chairman brought very particular and very valuable skills, which were very well employed, to the term of office that she held at the two tourist boards. We feel that different qualities may be those which will most effectively carry forward the industry in the future. It is those which we are looking to.
My department worked with the BTA and the ETB on a strategic overview of tourism which, as your Lordships will know, led to the publication last March of Tourism: Competing with the Best. Competing with the Best set out an initial programme of work, in partnership with the industry, to make British tourism more competitive. We are delighted with the very positive response which Competing with the Best has had and we are continuing to work with the tourist boards and the industry to follow it up. One of the key tasks identified was the need for better targeted overseas marketing as a means of increasing suppliers' access to markets with growth potential, including more emphasis on the promotion of London. Other priorities include strengthening the crown classification scheme, and a benchmarking project aimed at assisting accommodation providers to establish best practice. Good progress is being made.
London is the key to our continuing success in the world market. The new money we have provided will be matched by private sector funds to produce a new promotional push linked by the new marque. This will increase interest in London abroad and, as the main gateway to Britain, to the rest of the country. We want to encourage those who have already been to London to return and explore further afield, and to attract first-time visitors who will want to come back and see more of what our country has to offer. To do that we have to keep the image of London attractive and in the minds of potential visitors for if we do not, it will be a disaster for the capital and the rest of the nation.
London is the gateway, but, of course, Britain has so much more to offer. The British Tourist Authority is working with the regional tourist boards and others, to improve its already substantial overseas promotion of the whole of Britain, which, quite rightly, as has been mentioned this afternoon, has received many deserved accolades. What we need to do is to develop recognisable themes which will bring home to potential visitors what each region has to offer.
That is exactly what the BTA is doing in setting up regional consortia to provide a co-ordinated marketing effort which will maximise resources and create an identifiable theme specific to each part of the country. In that way, every part of Britain will be able to benefit from strategic and targeted marketing aimed specifically at the visitors who are most likely to act on information and make a visit. Developing a stronger image for the regions and reinforcing the message with specific marketing will also make it easier to encourage those visiting London to take a trip elsewhere in Britain.
The European Communities Committee's report suggested that all the promotion of the United Kingdom overseas would be more efficient if funding were concentrated in the BTA rather than having any separate provision for that work with the boards in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I was reassured in this context by the remarks from the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, about the success of tourism in Scotland. In the Government's response my right honourable friend the National Heritage Secretary has noted that the boards do in fact work very closely together, and have developed complementary branding for their marketing in much the same way as I was describing the brands which the English regions are developing. We are content that so long as the boards continue to work closely and constructively together those arrangements work satisfactorily for all parties concerned.
The noble Lord, Lord Borrie, raised the matter of differential spending on tourism across the country. As the noble Lord knows, the home countries' Secretaries of State have discretion to spend public money in their areas of responsibility. That is not capriciousness, but a proper way of matching public expenditure--that is to say, everyone else's money--with the varying and different problems which face different parts of the country.
The noble Lord also raised the subject of regional selective assistance. Tourism projects are eligible for regional selective assistance grants. However, applicants for that assistance must not only meet the terms of the rules, in particular they must meet fairly stringent additionality criteria. They must not simply use subsidy to displace economic activity from elsewhere.
A second set of measures arising from Competing with the Best has to do with the quality and value for money of accommodation. Accommodation is the largest element of tourists' expenditure, and so a crucial factor in deciding what destination to visit. It is worrying, therefore, that research has shown that not enough of our overseas visitors are satisfied with the quality and value for money that they receive. Although the ETB's crown accommodation classification and grading scheme has gone some way towards raising standards, it has not yet reached its full potential.
Last year, my department asked the ETB to review the scheme to make it the guarantor of quality accommodation. The problem is that, viewed objectively, the operation of the existing classification schemes seems as likely to confuse as to assist visitors. That cannot possibly be in the country's best interests, as my noble friend Lord Astor pointed out. We must ensure the classification scheme arrangements convey clear messages to visitors. The English Tourist Board will shortly be presenting its proposals for a revised and strengthened crown scheme. We intend to consult the industry on those proposals before any decisions are made.
We are now adding further work to that which has already flowed from Competing with the Best. As has already been mentioned by a number of speakers, tourism is an industry which is very much dependent on people. We wish to study the role and the part played by people in the industry to see how they are employed, how they see and plan for their future, and how they see the industry itself developing. It is for that reason that the next initiative in the Competing with the Best scheme is going to be an examination of this part of the industry because we agree with my noble friend Lady Young and the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, on the importance of training. It is interesting to note the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, about the need for the status of those in the industry to be recognised as being real, wealth-creating jobs. I wish also to underscore the point made by my noble friend Lady Young, that this is an industry with very considerable potential for those in it, and it is one which is not dominated by qualifications.
I have already touched on the Motion tabled by my noble friend Lord Elibank on several points. I now wish to say a little more about the inquiry and the report from the Communities Select Committee, I congratulate the committee on its work, and I welcome the report, with which I am very pleased that in so many respects we can concur.
The Commission's Green Paper on tourism which provoked the inquiry had as its main object consideration of the future involvement in tourism the Community might have. Much of the Community's work affects tourism. The Green Paper looked at four possible options for future involvement, and we believe what lay behind all that was the desire in some quarters for a full competence in tourism. This House's Select Committee did not believe that a new title for tourism was necessary, and the Government agree. That view was most interestingly endorsed by that well-known European enthusiast--but I would not like to take it too far--the noble Lord, Lord Thomson. I am sure that is very important evidence.
We believe that there would be real dangers to the tourism industry in greater regulation. Given that there was little indication in the Green Paper of what such a competence would be used for, we are not prepared to take such a risk. We do not, anyway, see the need for it. What we would like to see--and this is borne out by the committee--is a better sponsorship of the tourism industry within the Commission along the lines of our own department's activities here in Whitehall. Tourism has not received the status and recognition it deserves within the European institutions. That does not mean to say that I want to see more intervention in tourism. The Government agree with the committee in believing that what is necessary is for all parts of the Commission to be better informed about the consequences for tourism of policies and actions across the range of the Community's activities. That is the role which we see for the tourism unit in the Commission.
We do not go so far as the committee in believing that the tourism unit necessarily needs a higher status or more resources to achieve that. We should like to see the unit focus its attention on that sponsorship role, with less, if any, need to administer small-scale projects in which it has been involved in the past, and which in our impression have made very little impact.
The measures enshrined in the Government's tourism strategy are designed to help the industry in the immediate future and to bring long-term benefits to tourism, heritage, environment and the arts, whose futures are all so closely interlocked. We shall continue to pursue those policies vigorously. We shall continue to support the tourist boards. We shall seek to enhance our Whitehall lobbying role, working with other
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, my first duty is to thank all the speakers who have supported this debate this afternoon and particularly to add my congratulations to the maiden speakers. I thank the Minister for his reply. Many points have been raised and it is unreasonable to expect the Minister to answer them all in a short 20-minute speech. Perhaps he might like to write to some of the speakers about some of the points that they raised.
It has been a constructive debate and, generally speaking, free of party rancour. A lot has been said about our heritage and tourism, and I should like to flag up one final word of warning on that. Too often we take our historic heritage for granted, assuming that because the heritage has been there for centuries it will survive forever. However, increasingly, its survival depends on tourist income. Few heritage sites are actually profitable, and most cling precariously to viability.
There has been a tremendous growth in the number and range of new competitive attractions over the past 20 years. In fact, more than 60 per cent. of them first opened to the public during that period. Many of them are entirely commercial, such as the new theme parks that are designed for family fun. Family days out are no longer so readily taken at historic houses and museums as they once were. The competition for visitors comes not only from other attractions, but also from Sunday shopping and Sunday sport, while some available "disposable income" is channelled into the lottery. I recognise and welcome the lottery as a great source of support for some parts of the heritage, but I am anxious to see more of that investment going to the tourist potential of our existing historic assets rather than into new millennium dreams, often with pseudo-historic themes, that will attract visitors away from our genuine existing sites.
Let us not forget that the maintenance of our heritage sites must continue and, if they are not viable, one way or another the cost will come back to the public purse. In heritage circles it is still a matter of great concern that the majority of our most valuable and vulnerable historic sites are not eligible for lottery assistance because they are in private ownership, although they are of course still eligible for English Heritage grants.
Without doubt, however, we must expect Britain to be increasingly challenged as the world's favourite heritage destination for overseas visitors; consider the rich and as yet unvisited heritage of Eastern Europe, which is a slumbering giant about to awake and compete keenly for visitors.
Tourism, although it is a fragmented industry, has great potential to be even more successful than it has been up to now, providing wealth for our country and jobs for our people. However, we shall not remain successful in this ever more competitive world unless we invest our energies and the minimum but adequate public funding to make this happen. It needs long-term commitment and co-ordinated action.
I trust that the Government will continue their commitment to the industry. Of course we must have reviews, but in recent years we have had reviews of reviews of reviews. I say, "Give us the tools and let us get on with the job". I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.