Tourism industry is urged to lobby for dedicated minister
South West accountancy firm Bishop Fleming is calling on tourism sector businesses to join it in lobbying Parliament to reinstate a dedicated tourism minister, who would answer to Business Secretary Vince Cable.
Will Hanbury, lead partner of the firm's Hotels and Tourism team described the axing of former Tourism Minister John Penrose's role last week as "very bad news for the South West, and for the entire tourism industry in the UK."
In the wake of Weston-super-Mare MP Mr Penrose's announced departure following the Cabinet reshuffle, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced that Sports Minister Hugh Robertson will assume the tourism portfolio on top of his responsibilities. Last week, former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, describing the Government's "total disregard" for Devon and Cornwall £2 billion tourism economy as "a scandal."
Mr Hanbury said: "The travel industry called for a minister to oversee an effective tourism strategy, and was encouraged by the progress being made since John Penrose took that role.
"Many in the industry now want responsibility shifted from Culture, Media & Sports to Vince Cable's Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.
"Tourism is a crucial business for this region, and for the UK's economic recovery. The industry has far more relevance to the Business department than to the department dealing with sport and culture.
"Despite the media success of the Olympics and the Paralympics, these unique events have delivered very little benefit for the South West's tourism industry in what has been one of the worst-weather seasons in living memory.
"It makes no sense to view the need for a Tourism Minister as redundant, now that the Olympics are over."
Mr Hanbury is writing to newly appointed Culture Secretary Maria Miller via the House of Commons and has urged other regional businesses to follow suit in support of the industry's case for a dedicated representative in government.
Laura Holt, chair of the Devon Tourism partnership behind VisitDevon said: "We are extremely concerned that the scrapping of a dedicated tourism minister indicates a downgrading of tourism in the DCMS's list of priorities and echo Bishop Fleming's call to action.
"We are finding it harder and harder to get our voice heard at a national level.
"The DCMS continues to state that tourism is an absolute priority for the department and is at the forefront of their growth agenda, but they have yet to show demonstrable support."
VisitCornwall chief Malcolm Bell said that the industry now faced a waiting game to see how effective Hugh Robertson's combined portfolio would prove, but this would ultimately depend on the Government's pledged commitment to the sector.
"The devil's in the detail," he said.