Government unveils Tourism Recovery Plan, with business events on the agenda
The Government has unveiled its new Tourism Recovery Plan to help sector build back better from the pandemic, which includes benefits for the business events industry, such as investment in the sector around the Commonwealth Games.
A review into how Destination Management Offices are run is also underway and this could yield further benefit to the business travel and events industry.
Plan aims to recover domestic tourism to pre pandemic levels by 2022 and international tourism by 2023, which the Government says is at least a year faster than independent forecasts predict.
The scheme includes a new rail pass and vouchers for popular tourist attractions. A £10m voucher scheme will be launched by The National Lottery this autumn to encourage trips beyond the peak summer season, with players having the chance to claim vouchers to redeem at tourist attractions across the UK between September 2021 and March 2022.
A rail pass for “staycationers” will be launched later in the year, helping to make it easier and more sustainable for domestic tourists to get around the country. The new pass will build on the success of the BritRail pass, which is sold through VisitBritain and currently gives international visitors flexible travel across the country, as well as providing discounted entry to tourism attractions.
There will be a new focus on technology and data. The Government says it will explore how tourism data collected at the border can support the sector and we will look to create a tourism data hub to give the sector access to robust, accessible and timely data. The hub could track consumer trends in travel, such as the growth in “active tourism” such as watersports and hiking and booking of sustainable tourism experiences. The data gathered will help inform policy and marketing whilst working to improve visitor experience.
The Government has said it will develop a Sustainable Tourism Plan later this year which it says will put the UK at the “forefront of the global discussion on sustainable travel”. This will look at further measures to reduce the impact of tourism on our environment while balancing the needs of local communities with the economic benefits generated by tourism.
Pre-pandemic, England looked set to hit 100m domestic overnight trips in 2020. In 2019, 41m international visitors came to the UK for business or leisure, spending over £28bn while here and putting the UK in the top five countries globally for inbound visitor spending.
However, the sector has been hugely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with cities among the most impacted areas. £19m has also been earmarked for marketing campaigns to promote cities and towns across the country, with a £5.5m domestic campaign already underway.
The Government will also launch a consultation on the introduction of a Tourist Accommodation Registration Scheme in England. This will consider the benefits of the rise of short-term holiday rentals in attracting tourists to destinations across the country and contributing to the English tourism economy, as well as its impact on local economies and communities. The consultation will help us target further government interventions in the future and create an improved national picture of the precise shape of the accommodation landscape which could feed into a wider Data Hub.
The plan also looks ahead to 2022, a year in which the UK will showcase the nation on the world stage with a triumvirate of major events. The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Festival UK 2022 and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. An additional bank holiday for the Queen’s Jubilee will provide a further boost for tourism and hospitality while a £24m Business and Tourism Programme will run alongside the Commonwealth Games to promote Birmingham, the West Midlands and the UK.
The government is determined to level-up the country and to ensure that every region is reaching its full potential. A root and branch review of how tourism at a regional and local level is funded and supported is already underway, focusing on the important role played by Destination Management Organisations, and will report in the summer.
Tourism minister Nigel Huddleston MP said: “The Tourism Recovery Plan is our blueprint for how the sector can build back better from the pandemic, even faster than forecasts predict.
“It’s been a challenging year for the tourism sector, especially for our cities, but I know they stand ready to welcome visitors back and I encourage everyone to rediscover the UK’s fantastic tourism offer.”
Michael Hirst OBE, chairman, Events Industry Board, said: “Meetings and conferences, exhibitions and trade shows are crucial to the UK’s recovery in showcasing innovation, growing international visitors, attracting inward investment and creating jobs.
"We are delighted to see this recognised within the Recovery Plan which includes expansion of VisitBritain’s support programmes to include a UK-wide domestic fund, greater cross Whitehall working and enhanced Ministerial advocacy support plus elements related to sustainability, skills and accessibility. We are committed to working with government to ensure the UK retains and enhances its position as a leading European nation for hosting business events.”