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New Sport & Tourism Minister Hugh Robertson delivers first speech to hospitality industry

By Emma Eversham , 08-Oct-2012
Last updated on 08-Oct-2012 at 14:09 GMT

Related topics: Business, Events & Awards, People, Legislation, Restaurants, Hotels, Pubs & Bars

In his first speech to the industry, new Sport and Tourism Minister Hugh Robertson claimed tourism will play a central role in the legacy for 2012 and that the Government considers the industry as an important driver of the economy, but failed to address some of the issues it faces. 

Hugh Robertson who delivered his first speech to the industry at the Annual Hotel Conference last week

Hugh Robertson who delivered his first speech to the industry at the Annual Hotel Conference last week

Delivering his first speech on tourism since taking up office on 6 September , Robertson told delegates of the Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester last week that London 2012 had 'changed the perceptions' of the UK abroad and had demonstrated that the nation is able to run events without problems. 

"The crucial thing one year on is to make sure we can demonstrate that we are already starting to deliver on our aspirations and for me that crucially means creating a legacy of tourism," he said. 

"I’m absolutely determined to line up Government departments behind that in the same way that we did during the Games."

GREAT campaign

Robertson said the Government was aiming to increase the number of visitors coming to the UK from abroad from 30 to 40 million by 2020 with marketing campaigns promoting the UK to both the home and foreign markets on the agenda. 

He said the launch of a £6m national TV and cinema advertising campaign promoting holidays at home had reached an estimated 70 per cent of holidaymakers and had generated an extra 300,000 extra hotel nights in the first three months and that the international Britain is GREAT marketing campaign promoting Britain launched in Australia, Canada, India and Russia was to be launched in the US, Brazil and the UAE this year. 

"This summer we have shown once again that this country can deliver, but the biggest opportunity is yet to come," he added. 

A loosening of red tape, more support for tourism organisations at a local level and work to increase apprenticeships and training were also ways the Government planned to help the industry, Robertson said. 

Visas

However, when questioned what the Government could do to solve the difficulties tourists from certain markets, China in particular, face when applying for visas, the Minister said the Government was aware of the problem, but the matter was not 'entirely simple'.

He said the lack of accessibility of Chinese provincial cities in flight terms to the UK's airports and the difficulties getting visas approved were the two main problems, but that work was being done to change that.  

"More and more of the visa system is now moving onto the internet, the ambition is to have that entirely moved over by the end of the year which will help," he said. 

"We understand the crucial role China has a new market, but it's not entirely simple. You can see the drop off in Chinese interest in this country just as soon as the Prime Minister meets with the Dalai Lama so there are all sorts of issues that make the visa issue difficult."

The Minister avoided answering a question on the possibility of installing another runway at Heathrow to ensure a greater flow of inbound tourists, instead referring back to the success of the Games.

He said: "Not a single problem or a single breach of the guidelines getting people in and out for the Olympics or Paralympics. We can do it, all the indications are that the UK border force has learnt some important lessons and is going to get this to work better in the future than it has in the past."

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