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Exclusive: Post-Brexit tourism deal in the 'common interest' of Europe, says tourism minister

By Tom Anstey    14 Sep 2017
John Glen was appointed minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism at DCMS in June / DCMS

John Glen, Britain’s minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), has said the country’s rising tourism numbers will continue to grow after it makes its exit from the European Union (EU), adding that it is in the “common interest” of Europe to make Britain accessible.

Recent figures show that the drop in value of the pound since the Brexit vote has coincided with record numbers of overseas tourists, with visits to the UK in the first half of the year now standing at 19.1 million – up 9 per cent from 2016.

In an exclusive interview with Leisure Opportunities, Glen – who was appointed to his DCMS position in June – said that the increase in inbound visitor numbers was continuing through 2017, and that there was no reason to believe the trend wouldn’t continue after Britain leaves the EU.

“We want the UK to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before as a truly global Britain,” he said.

“While it was a vote to leave the EU, it was not a vote to leave Europe. Europe benefits from access to the UK market, and many parts of Europe benefit hugely from the business and tourism that comes from the UK. We have a common interest in getting the best possible outcome in terms of Brexit.

“Tourism will continue to be a major economic driver for the UK and will only grow in importance in the years ahead. The sector plays an important role in showing the world the very best of Britain, strengthening global relationships and demonstrating that we are open for business.”

Although Britain is targeting increased visitor numbers from across the globe, there are particular world regions key to boosting these figures.

“Visits from the US are on the increase, rising almost 10 per cent on last year’s figures,” said Glen, citing tourism statistics from VisitBritain. “American visitors also spent more than £4bn (US$5.3bn, €4.4bn) during that time, an increase of nearly 16 per cent on 2016. This makes the US a key market for us to look to.

“We are also seeing good growth coming from China, with visitor numbers up almost 27 per cent in the first quarter of 2017. That is another major market where we want to keep up that momentum and encourage more people to come and see the best of Britain.”

The UK capital is Britain’s biggest draw, with London mayor Sadiq Khan recently setting out a roadmap for tourism leading up to 2025. That plan forecasts a 30 per cent increase in international and domestic visits to 42.6 million visitors annually, with a projected spending jump of 50 per cent to £22bn (US$28.4bn, €23.9bn). When asked about how the rest of the country shaped up to the capital, Glen was confident that the UK would be able to keep pace.

“Of course the success of tourism in the capital is something that should be celebrated,” he said. “However, I want to help encourage our visitors to venture beyond London too. I am working with my colleagues in the Department for Transport to further develop our transport network. We also use the government’s GREAT campaign to promote the UK abroad using images of popular regional attractions so that visitors can see the hidden jewels of our nation.”

Last year set a record for inbound tourism to Britain on visits and spend with 37.6 million visits, up 4 per cent on 2015, with visitors spending £22.5bn (US$30bn, €25bn), up 2 per cent.

Tourism is worth an estimated £127bn (US$168bn, €141bn) annually to the UK economy.

The minister wants to encourage visitors to explore Britain's offerings outside of London / Shutterstock.com
London is the UK's biggest tourist draw / Shutterstock.com
Britain's Chinese and US markets are particularly strong for inbound tourism / Shutterstock.com
Brexit  tourism  visitor attractions  John Glen  heritage  Arts  Heritage  Tourism  DCMS  Britain  London  UK tourism  European Union  EU  
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