Thank you Penny, and good morning everyone.
Many thanks for inviting me to launch the new Holidays at Home are GREAT campaign for 2013, and I’m delighted to be here today.
This morning feels a little bit like old times. I spent the best part of 20 years working as an advertising executive presenting new commercials, it was always a highlight of my professional life, so I understand how much work has gone into developing this latest campaign.
Last year was a golden year for us as a nation. If you think about it we had the Diamond Jubilee, the Torch Relay, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It attracted not only visitors from overseas – bucking the trend in an Olympic year – but also encouraged many us to stay and holiday at home.
We have so much more to look forward to this year also. Over the summer we have the Ashes, the ICC Champions Trophy cricket tournament. October sees the kick-off for the Rugby League World Cup. And in 2014 – I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone in this room – we have the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the Grand Départ of the Tour de France: a real assortment of riches that we can use to attract people by encouraging them to stay at home.
All of these events not only enhance our reputation as a host, but make us realise as a nation how much this country has on offer.
That’s the spirit of the GREAT campaign on a national scale which was launched last year… Heritage is GREAT… Creativity is GREAT… Innovation is GREAT. All these themes project us – both internationally and domestically - as just that: a GREAT country to live, visit and work in.
I’d like to talk for a moment our Number One priority as a nation: the economy, and tourism’s role in its turnaround.
Just the other week I was speaking to representatives from our arts and cultural sectors at the British Museum, making the point that 40% of visitors to the UK cite our culture as the primary attraction.
That’s the intrinsic value of British culture: it articulates who we are as a nation, it energises the international appeal of our creative industries. It is a global magnet which draws millions of visitors each year, bringing enormous economic value, and jobs, too.
As the UK’s fifth-largest industry, tourism delivers £115 billion per year to our economy, and employs almost three million people. So when we increase the number of visitors from both home and abroad that means economic growth, jobs and success for our country.
And it’s not just London which benefits. For example Liverpool, which attracted almost 10 million extra visitors during the year it was European Capital of Culture. This led to almost £750 million of extra spending in the local area. Arts and culture are now thought to be as valuable to Merseyside’s economy as the Beatles and football; worth up to three billion pounds a year.
So it should be no surprise that we have many contenders – and my colleagues in the House of Commons keep reminding me of this – in the running to become the UK’s City of Culture in 2017, 11 in total. As I say, colleagues are lobbying my constantly, because they understand the benefits that tourism brings to their areas.
Success of the first campaign
Last year’s Holidays at Home campaign was an unqualified success, generating £300 million in extra domestic tourist spending – more than four million additional nights away. Over a three year period, Holidays at Home is expected to deliver more than 12,000 new jobs and £500 million in extra spending. Those are tangible benefits to our economy.
And there are so many reasons to holiday at home. Our countryside is spectacular, our coastline stunning and our culture and history is envied worldwide. As I Hampshire MP I know my own county has all of those things.
Let’s also not forget the regional variety of what England has to offer: you can enjoy wine tasting in Kent, shopping in Leeds, sailing in the Lake District, world-class opera in Buxton, or the delights of Cornish seafood – maybe followed by a spot of bodysurfing, or a visit to Tate St. Ives. The choice is yours; and it’s all on our own doorstep.
A holiday at home can mean less hassle than going abroad, too. No airports, no need to worry about foreign currencies or language barriers.
Thanks to the trade for encouraging people to holiday at home
To conclude I’d like to thank members of travel trade who are here today, for the effort they have made to actively promote Holidays at Home. I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage you to keep up the momentum as this campaign moves forward.
Not so very long ago, people would visit their travel agent and almost automatically think of a holiday in Spain or Turkey, or another part of Europe. The word ‘holiday’ became almost synonymous with the word ‘abroad’. Holidays at Home changes that.
Wallace and Gromit are two of our best-loved characters and they are from our shores, and are another example of our creative industries successfully exporting British culture around the world.
So, who better to be the faces of this new campaign, showing us why Holidays at Home are GREAT.