Attractions industry news

29 Oct 2014

Former tourism minister says VisitEngland should go it alone

Former tourism minister John Penrose has called for VisitEngland to become an independent organisation, in line with the tourism bodies of the other home nations.

Penrose, who was tourism minister from 2010 to 2012, says the organisation should no longer fall under VisitBritain, as England needs its own standalone tourism board to match VisitScotland, VisitWales and Discover Northern Ireland.

In his submission to the government’s review of VisitBritain and VisitEngland, Penrose notes that it is five years since the two organisations were de-merged at an operational level, but says legal ties (including sharing the same accounting officer) should be cut so that the English tourism board can refocus its strategy.

He wrote: “In the wake of the Scottish independence referendum and the decision to pursue greater devolution and localisation of powers from Westminster, it would be incongruous for England’s domestic tourism board to remain subservient to, and a subsidiary of, a UK institution when the equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are fully-fledged independent bodies.”

By becoming a separate entity, Penrose – whose own Weston-super-Mare constituency is a seaside town with strong links to tourism – believes VisitEngland will be able to focus on helping local tourism boards better market their areas. VisitEngland, he adds, should aim to increase partnership marketing with companies in the tourism industry.

Building stronger private sector ties would enable both VisitEngland and VisitBritain to become less dependent on government funding and ultimately abandon being quangos entirely, he adds, becoming instead industry-wide trade bodies coordinating tourism marketing campaigns.

The government announced its triennial review of tourism agencies VisitBritain and VisitEngland in July. The review is being led by the director of Social Justice at the Department for Work and Pensions Mark Fisher, with submissions being accepted until Friday (31 October). The review’s findings are expected to be published later this year.

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