Tourism industry hits out at years of cuts

Welcome To Yorkshire chief Gary Verity
Welcome To Yorkshire chief Gary Verity
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FOUR years of cuts to tourism support have made it harder than ever to get people out of London, industry groups have claimed.

Tourism bodies have said that such is the extent of the cuts, DEFRA is now seen by some as a better source of rural funding than the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Organisations giving evidence to MPs on a wide ranging look at how the industry is supported say they are still coping with the impact of the successive budget reductions, with little sign of new growth funds being diverted into the multi-billion regional tourism economy.

Since 2010 more than £100m has been taken out of support for the tourist industry, including £65m earmarked for regional development, documents put before the committee reveal.

That loss of support comes despite Yorkshire’s Tour de France giving a key example of what tourism can do for a regional economy.

A recent study showed the event’s 3.8 million backers generated £128m in total revenue, with £102m in Yorkshire alone.

While events such as this have helped, the day to day battle to bring in visitors has not got any easier, industry groups say.

With a cut of 40 per cent to the budget, the Tourism Alliance now says Defra is one of the biggest tourism spenders, with £20m of rural tourism cash available through EU funding packages for farm diversification and other measures.

The DCMS says it spends more than double this figure annually as part of its support for all regional tourism.

On hearing the budget claim one committee MP, Ben Bradshaw, made clear: “ It does not sound as if the DCMS has the right to continue to call itself the Department responsible for tourism when it is not spending as much as DEFRA on tourism.”

Organisations from across Yorkshire and the rest of the UK have sent in evidence to the inquiry urging it to address a concerns in how cuts have fallen.

Efforts to get tourists out of London are now harder than ever, many say. The National Museum Directors’ Council, which represents among other the York Museums Trust, said that at a time when the the Government is seeking to kickstart economic growth, “simultaneous and significant cuts are being made to the very institutions at the heart of what attracts domestic and international tourists to an area.”

Council officials add in their evidence that “although marked reductions in funding have been made to the national collections, the swiftest and largest reductions in public funding have been applied at regional level.”

The Association of Independent Museums also backed the call, saying it was time the Department for Business looked at how the job-creating Local Growth Fund can better support for tourist destinations.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said they were suceeding despite the cuts.

“When the first round of cuts came in, and Yorkshire Forward was axed, Yorkshire lost a great deal of funding from central government,” he said. “It was of course disappointing and frustrating when all the evidence highlighted that the work we were doing had significantly grown Yorkshire’s visitor economy. It has meant we’ve had to be even more creative with how we market Yorkshire when targeting visitors from around the UK, including London.

“We will continue to lobby central government to support Welcome to Yorkshire and help us grow the visitor economy in Yorkshire even more.”

Last night Labour hit out at the Government’s record.

Shadow culture minister Clive Efford said: “Labour has said that the contribution tourism makes to our economy has not been given the recognition it requires and we will work with local authorities and stakeholders to encourage tourism across the country. Tourism can play a significant role in generating jobs and growth.

“The Grand Depart in Yorkshire is an excellent example of how regions can showcase the best of what England has to offer. A Labour government would do all it can to attract sporting and cultural events to the country in the future. It is events like these that will encourage the overnight stays in locations outside of London that are vital to a vibrant, sustainable tourist industry.”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport denied it was being outspent on tourism support. In the Autumn Statement the chancellor committed the government to providing extra funds for promoting regional tourism.