The tourism industry could generate an additional 50,000 jobs if it was properly supported by government, according to shadow tourism secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Speaking at the Conservative Party's Tourism Conference in Brighton yesterday, Hunt said that, as a sector that employs more than two million people and is responsible for 8% of GDP, tourism is "no candy floss industry".
Hunt stressed that helping the tourism industry must be an important part of the UK's economic recovery plan: "As we seek to rebuild our economy, it has a vital role to play in rebalancing the economy away from dependence on financial services, housing and debt," he said.
Hunt called on the Government to consider a series of measures to simplify the structures that promote UK tourism and incentivise local authorities to take tourism seriously.
- Replacing Regional Development Agencies by allowing local authorities to form enterprise partnerships to promote economic development.
- Allowing local authorities to keep any increase in business rates receipts from business growth they get for six years.
- Giving local authorities a new power to give business rate discounts as they see fit.
"We have proposed allowing local authorities to keep any increase in business rates that they attract for six years. They will therefore have a real incentive to attract new tourism businesses," Hunt said.
"And we will help them attract these new businesses by giving councils the discretionary power to cut business rates however they like. This will give them a real incentive to support the development of a local tourism industry," he added.
Nick Bish, chief executive of licensed trade body the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, attended the conference and welcomed Hunt's comments.
By Daniel Thomas
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