Will you increase or decrease the money allocated to the support of tourism?
Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Conservative) At a time when the Government has not even made clear how much they plan to spend on tourism, it is impossible for us to say exactly what would happen under a Conservative government.
Labour Labour has a strong record of investing in tourism - in total more than £2b will be invested in this spending review period. We want to ensure that Britain's heritage is protected, cared for, and enhanced for current and future generations both in this country and abroad. While future spending decisions will be taken at the time of the next Comprehensive Spending Review, Labour is committed to improving our tourism infrastructure, especially in the run-up to the Olympics.
John Thurso, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Liberal Democrats We certainly won't decrease the funding and would like to increase it, but in the current spending environment, no political party can make a promise to a specific budget. We have advocated for a number of years that the grant-in-aid to VisitBritain and VisitEngland should be increased.
Will you provide a specific fund to market Britain around the London Olympics? If so, how much will you be put into the fund?
JH (Conservative) We recognise that a considerable proportion of the Olympic legacy could accrue from tourism. The aim must therefore be to present London as a world-beating visitor destination. A Conservative government will establish a fund to market London and the UK overseas before, during and immediately after 2012. Part of this fund will come from government and we will hope to attract match funding from private sector businesses that have a lot to gain from a lasting increase in the number of visitors coming to the UK. The Government money will come from existing budgets and will be determined if we can get elected.
Labour The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games represent a valuable opportunity to change the industry for ever in a way that helps us achieve a permanent legacy. It shouldn't be a "one off" marketing event but part of a coherent strategy to promote the UK. Labour is providing £130m between 2008 and 2012 to VisitBritain and VisitEngland for marketing Britain overseas and at home.
JT (Liberal Democrats) We will certainly provide a fund, but I don't know the answer to how much will be in it.
How will you simplify the structure of UK tourism so that there are clear lines of responsibility for its national, regional and local promotion?
JH (Conservative) We plan to simplify government by cutting the number of quangos responsible for tourism. This will involve removing the responsibility for tourism from RDAs and replacing them with an empowered VisitEngland with responsibility for streamlining England's infrastructure and distributing funding for tourism.
We will also encourage the formation of Local Tourism Partnerships which will better coordinate local tourism plans and increase buy-in of local authorities and the private sector.
Labour We don't believe the current structures of UK tourism are complicated. In our view, the establishment of Visit England has been hugely beneficial. The Conservative proposal to close Regional Development Agencies would not only undermine the important work being done by RDAs to promote tourism in their area, but would damage the tourism industry as a whole.
JT (Liberal Democrats) Tourism marketing should follow what we do at a constitutional level, therefore VisitBritain would cease to be, with VisitEngland taking a lead role in the marketing of England as VisitScotland does in Scotland. Each of these bodies would then feed into a subsidiary organisation which would undertake international marketing.
Why does a state-funded organisation need to be involved in hotel grading when the AA can do exactly the same job as no cost to the taxpayer?
JH (Conservative) We recognise that the current grading system operated by VisitBritain is in urgent need of review as it currently alienates up to half of the hospitality market and has resulted in the formation of alternative grading systems and rival hotel associations. We therefore envisage a simplified, customer-led grading system for all hotels and B&Bs modelled on Tripadvisor.
Labour VisitBritain is actually self-funded rather than state-funded. As a result, there is no cost to the taxpayer.
JT (Liberal Democrats) We don't think that it should be. The key is that all accommodation providers should be registered based on the objective criteria of licensing, health and safety issue and fire regulations. All subjective judgements on quality should be left to organisations such as the AA and the RAC. In the internet age, websites are a far more practical tool for deciding on gradings.
What new powers will you give to the Minister for Tourism to enable him/her to be more effective?
JH (Conservative) First, we want to improve the co-ordination of tourism-related policy by creating a dedicated Minister for Tourism. The current minister responsible for tourism has several other responsibilities, ranging from libraries to the arts. There have also been eight ministers responsible for tourism in just 13 years. We believe that by creating a minister whose sole responsibility is to engage with the industry and champion the plight of the industry within Parliament, we can strengthen the voice of this vital industry.
In addition, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will chair the existing cross-departmental ministerial group on tourism to improve co-ordination. The Tourism Minister will continue to chair the existing Tourism Advisory Council, listening to the views of those involved in all aspects of the industry.
Labour In our view their existing powers and structure are effective.
JT (Liberal Democrats) We don't actually believe that the minister needs more powers, but we need a minister with sufficient clout within the Government. Tourism would actually sit far better in the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills rather than in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. All hotels, restaurants and pubs, after all, are businesses.
What plans have you for encouraging investment in the tourism industry, bearing in mind that the present Government has scrapped the Hotel Buildings Allowance and cut back on other allowances?
JH (Conservative) We want to increase private sector investment in tourism. We want to reduce the red tape currently faced by businesses. We will reduce the headline rate of corporation tax to 25p as well as reducing small companies' rate of corporation tax from 22p to 20p. The tourism industry supports 200,000 businesses - many of them small and medium- sized enterprises - therefore, we believe that this tax cut will make a real difference.
We will also allow local authorities to retain any growth in business rates (above the indexed rise in the national business rate) for a period of six years, so that there is a genuine incentive to encourage small and medium- sized businesses to grow.
Labour Labour is committed to reducing red tape and supporting small businesses. Like any business, the tourism industry has benefited from the support we put in place through the economic downturn. Now that the economy is moving back to growth, the priority is to secure a strong recovery. We know that economic recovery will be driven by firms and individuals across the whole economy, competing in a diverse range of sectors and markets. We are committed, therefore, to equip businesses with the support they need in an increasingly competitive globalised economy.
JT (Liberal Democrats) We have no specific plans. A major problem of the national budget deficit is that no responsible party can make promises about spending. What is important is that the new Government takes tourism seriously by having a business minister representing the industry and giving the marketing body the funds to seriously sell the product.