THIS year’s English Tourism Week will take place on the 17th to 26th March and represents, as ever, an opportunity to promote and celebrate this important sector of our economy, both nationally and locally. Tourism does not just generate significant revenue for the UK economy and employ many people itself, it also brings customers to other businesses and economic sectors too, from transport to retail. Cafés, pubs, and restaurants benefit from the additional footfall when visitor numbers increase and the visitor economy is more resilient than most to the impact of automation and digitisation on employment. However good Virtual Reality may be getting, it will be a long time (if ever) before tourists will see a virtual visit as an adequate substitute for being there in person. Tourists are not the only visitors in the visitor economy of course. The business traveller, visiting clients or attending conferences, also contributes significantly to the sector’s income. Despite advances in communications technology and the need for businesses to cut costs, being in the same room with customers or colleagues, including international ones, still counts in closing a deal or brainstorming new ideas. Those who work in the visitor economy know that the key to success is in expanding the portion of the year in which visitors bring income, beyond the summer and other key weeks or weekends. Business travellers can help in particular with that.
However, despite its economic significance and its potential, tourism and the visitor economy have taken some heavy blows in recent years. The Covid pandemic did obvious damage, with travel prevented altogether for a period and even when it was not, increased domestic tourism not making up for reductions in overseas visitors. Post-Covid, cost of living pressures has meant that demand has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels and high costs for energy and other things have put additional strain on tourism business budgets. Promoting what the sector has to offer therefore remains important and valuable, along with making sure that the whole of the visitor economy can live up to its potential. In our part of Warwickshire, we have many world-class attractions. Shakespeare’s Stratford and Warwick Castle are obvious examples and the world knows about them, but we also have many sites and attractions that have much to offer but are much less well known. This Tourism Week let’s take the opportunity to promote them too. Chedham’s Yard in Wellesbourne or the Burton Dassett Hills Country Park come to mind, but you will know of other places that you enjoy and that others would too, if only they had heard about them. If so, please send your nominations to me at [email protected] and let’s try together to promote the less well-known attractions of our area, so the whole visitor economy can grow in another challenging year.
Sir Jeremy Wright