The Government's relationship with the industry has been somewhat cool for years, but there have been encouraging signs in recent months. In response to the recent floods, the Government announced it was bringing forward legislation which would allow HM Revenue & Customs commissioners to defer collection of taxes and duties, waive interest, surcharges and penalties for the period during which collection of tax or duty is deferred, suspend debt-collection proceedings and defer compliance checks and investigations.
Then, when the foot-and-mouth outbreak occurred, we had the prime minister issuing a release to say that Britain was the best place in the world to go on holiday and 15 ministers agreeing to visit rural areas.
Add to this the recent announcement that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) was allocating an extra £750,000 from departmental funds and £250,000 from the VisitBritain reserve to marketing initiatives aimed at helping the rural tourism industry to recover in the wake of the floods and foot-and-mouth, and you have to admit the response has been overwhelming.
But the big test will come next Monday (17 September) when the Government launches its strategy for maximising the tourism benefits associated with hosting the Olympic Games. It will be interesting to see what, if any, additional resources it will commit to implementing a strategy designed to deliver an estimated £2b in tourism earnings for the UK.
Another big test of the new relationship, the Comprehensive Spending Review, which is due to be completed before the end of the year, will determine the Government's funding of the sector from 2008 to 2011. The DCMS's funding for international marketing of the UK hasn't increased since 1997. This spending round will be the toughest for years, and for government departments to simply maintain their current expenditure levels will be a considerable achievement.
How the DCMS squares this circle will determine whether the Government's current relationship with the industry is just a short-term crush or whether it's looking for something a little more serious.
Lake Windermere, with its outstanding natural beauty, attracts thousands of tourists every year. But further cuts in funding for marketing the UK will hit the tourism industry