The Government has proposed a raft of measures including an industry task force dedicated to cutting red tape, and moving the May Day bank holiday as part of its long-awaited Tourism Strategy.
The 52-page document, the production of which has been led by Tourism Minister John Penrose, comes after a speech by Prime Minister David Cameron last year in which he said that he wanted to put tourism at the heart of the UK's economic recovery.
Among the proposals in the strategy were:
â- A consultation to move the May Day bank holiday to a new St George's Day holiday in England (St David's Day in Wales) or a Trafalgar Day bank holiday during the autumn bank holiday.
â- As had already emerged, the Strategy also contained a proposal to stop obliging hotels to join one of the official star rating schemes, in favour of consumer review sites such as Expedia or TripAdvisor.
â- The Government said it also wanted to update and reshape Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) so that they marketed attractions and areas defined by the local visitor economy, rather than those set out by local authorities, Regional Development Agencies, or Local Enterprise Partnerships.
â- Making tourist visas faster, simpler and more convenient to get.
â- Help to improve staff skills in the sector through extra apprenticeships and courses, although the strategy appeared to offer little more help to improve skills in the sector than was already being provided by various Sector Skills Councils including People 1st. The strategy pointed out that employers in hospitality already provided the highest expenditure on training per employee - £2,245 - of any sector in the economy.
Absent from the report, however, was a widely-expected proposal to move Britain over to "double summertime" in order to lengthen the tourist season. Penrose said that he had decided to leave out the proposal since it was being put forward via a private members' bill in Parliament and affected more than just tourism.
"There has been no change to the Government's existing position, which is that this is an interesting idea and one that is currently being discussed and debated through a private members' bill in Parliament and David Cameron has given a commitment not to impose it on, for example, the Scots or the Northern Irish without their consent," he said.
And he suggested that by moving the May Day bank holiday, the Government would be able to lengthen the tourism season and create a new festival for the country to celebrate - such as St George's Day. But he dismissed the idea of creating a new holiday: "The permanent costs to the British economy and the drag on growth that you create when we are trying to promote economic growth as fast as we can is quite profound. It would be billions of pounds in GDP."
By Neil Gerrard
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