UK Government commits to ‘ambitious’ tourism project post-Brexit

Government ministers will meet with business leaders in the UK’s tourism sector to develop an “ambitious Industrial Strategy sector deal” to boost the economy, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, said today.

Spirits giant Edrington invested millions in a state-of-the-art whisky distillery and visitor centre earlier this year. (Photo: Simon Price/PA Wire

The deal, Wright said, will incentivise businesses to visit the UK “throughout the year” while also investing more in training staff to make working in hospitality a “career for life.”

The department wants business leaders in the UK’s tourism sector to improve in four ways:

  1. Making tourism and hospitality a career for life
  2. Making the UK the most accessible tourism industry in the world
  3. Sharing industry data to identify growth opportunities in new and emerging markets
  4. Increasing accommodation capacity

The initiative comes after months of lobbying from trade bodies such as the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and UKHospitality. “The tourism and hospitality sectors are closely linked, with over 80% of tourism jobs within hospitality,” UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls said, “so this will have a positive impact on our ability to recruit and retain the workforce we need.”

A growing segment of the UK’s drinks industry has started to cater for visitors by opening their vineyards and distilleries to the general public, and laying the groundwork for on-site restaurants and hotels.

English winery Denbies secured £4 million in funding to create a ‘vineyard hotel’ and significantly increase its sparkling production earlier this year, with HSBC putting £1.7 million towards to the project. Work on the 17-room hotel began this September and it is expected to be complete in time for spring of next year. Chief operating officer Jeanette Simpson told reporters that wine tourism will play “an integral part” in the development of the UK’s own wine industry.

Spirits giant Edrington opened a new distillery and visitor experience for Scotch-producer The Macallan in June 2018. The new still-house cost £140m to build, forming part of Edrington’s much larger, £500m investment into the brand.

But trade bodies have warned that employers will struggle to meet the government’s criteria if they cannot recruit enough staff in the first place.

Hospitality is the 3rd largest private sector employer in the UK, but a recent YouGov poll found that around 330,000 foreign hospitality workers are considering leaving the UK due to Brexit.

Almost 1 in 5 (18%) of hospitality managers reported that recruitment had been harder now than in April 2017, with 16% believing they will not be able to fulfil their staffing requirements over the next five years with domestic workers.

Restaurant groups in particular are feeling the strain in the UK’s current economic climate. Profits of the UK’s top 100 restaurant groups fell by a collective 64% in 2017, with 35 now loss-making – up 75% in just a year – according to research by accountancy firm UHY Hacker.

“The positive work that we do, and the future initiatives we wish to undertake with the help of the sector deal does, Nicholls said, “rely on the sector being able to access sufficient labour, at a time when we have virtual full employment,” Nicholls said, “and any future immigration policy will need to reflect that.”

British Beer and Pub Association Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds said the announcement was “a great vote of confidence from the Government in our sector.”

“Recruitment and retention are vital when as it stands 24% of our employees come from overseas, which rises to over 80% in metropolitan areas.

“The BBPA is already chairing a group across the tourism sector on retention, and there is much work to do to secure the deal, but on the anniversary of the introduction of the Industrial Strategy, it is good to see such support from Government and VisitBritain.”

UK tourism is now worth over £66 billion a year to the economy. The sector employs 1.6 million people, covering beaches and activity parks, to hundreds of thousands of heritage sites.


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