Budget hotel brand Travelodge is calling on the Government to lift tourism from its second class status and help it lead the economy to sustained growth.
In a letter today to Vince Cable, the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, Travelodge's chief executive Grant Hearn outlines a ten-point plan for accelerating the UK's economy by unlocking the potential of the tourism industry.
The letter follows the publication of Weathering the Storm: UK Tourism During the Recession 2007-2011, a report commissioned by Travelodge to investigate the performance of the UK tourism industry during the recession, which revealed that the industry has outperformed the general economy over the last five years, led the way in terms of employment numbers and increased visitor numbers.
The ten point plan calls for the Government to move tourism higher up its agenda and give the industry a higher status by moving it from the Department of Culture Media and Sports to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
It also includes a recommendation for a dedicated taskforce, headed up by a tourism minister, to deliver growth and create a cross departmental cohesive strategy in cooperation with all tourism partners.
Hearn said: "Our report confirms UK tourism has successfully weathered the recession to date and outperformed other key sectors, which is great news. However, as one of Britain's biggest business sectors, it deserves the chance to unlock its true potential.
"We have a real opportunity within our grasp which can play a significant part in helping our economy to recover; our lack of immediate action is costing jobs, growth and investment. It is in our national economic interest and this has to happen now. We need to be treated as a serious business sector."
Travelodge's ten-point plan, sent to Cable, for developing a tourism industry capable of creating jobs and leading the economy out of recession, is as follows:
1. - Move tourism higher up the Government's agenda, with the first step being to move the industry to where it belongs - the Department for Business, Skills and Innovation. DBIS has both the authority and responsibility to ensure that tourism can flourish.
2. - DBIS to take responsibility for setting a national strategy and policy that includes introducing performance targets and better collaboration across the industry.
3. - Reinstate a full time Minister for Tourism post.
4. - Create a united tourism working party with the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly Government, Northern Ireland Assembly and the Mayor of London.
5. - Develop a dedicated plan and regional tourism fund to help the national tourist boards develop a "London and beyond" strategy that considers where investment in regional tourism can deliver the strongest results.
6. - Assess the business case for regional tourism zones that enjoy allowances on capital expenditure and investment in new projects.
7. - Ring-fence funding for hospitality apprenticeships to drive growth and jobs in the sector.
8. - Simplify the visa process for visitors from emerging markets, especially China. Some steps have been taken recently, which is good news, but a lack of further action will cost jobs, growth and investment.
9. - Reduce the current VAT rate of 20% for the hospitality industry to 5% in line with our European neighbours. This will create 236,000 jobs by 2015, 475,000 jobs by 2020 and annually boost the economy by £150m.
10. - Target the investment industry, especially companies who invest in pension funds and savings plans, to invest in tourism business ventures as an alternative long term investment.
"Our ten-point plan is about awakening the potential of the sector and positioning tourism as a key element of a successful and sustainable economic recovery," Grant added. "I welcome an opportunity to discuss this proposal with Mr. Cable and his department."
By Janet Harmer
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