The UK holiday industry has voiced concerns in the wake of this week’s cabinet reshuffle – which has led to fears that tourism has dropped down the government agenda.
Tuesday’s changing of the guard in Whitehall saw the Tourism Minister – Conservative MP John Penrose – step down from his position. But as yet, no replacement has been announced – amid worries that the role may not be filled at all.
Luke Pollard, the head of public affairs for the tourism association ABTA, says the UK is in danger of wasting the potential positive impact of the Olympics if a full-time Tourism Minister is not put in place.
‘The travel industry called for a Minister in order to oversee an effective tourism strategy, and we have been encouraged to see progress in this area,’ he comments.
‘We are awaiting confirmation from government as to where the tourism portfolio will now sit.
‘The government has said that tourism is a key driver of economic growth,’ he continues.
‘It is vital that we have clear leadership in place at a time when the tourism legacy from the Olympics needs to be secured and the contribution from outbound, inbound and domestic tourism still needs to be properly understood.
‘We will be seeking an early meeting with the new Secretary of State, Maria Miller, to understand the Government’s thinking.’
Maria Miller became the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on Tuesday, replacing Jeremy Hunt, who became Secretary of State for Health.
With no replacement for Mr Penrose being announced, the role of Tourism Minister has, for now, been absorbed into the wider responsibilities of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
A DCMS spokesperson has said that the tourism brief is expected to remain within the department.
The British Hospitality Association has described itself as ‘extremely disappointed’ by the move.
‘[John Penrose] was a great supporter of the tourism industry,’ a statement read.
‘We would be extremely concerned if this indicated any downgrading of tourism in the DCMS’s list of priorities.’
Mr Penrose has spoken briefly about the removal of his ministerial brief, telling his constituency, Weston-super-Mare, that he is ‘very proud of the work I did as part of the DCMS team, boosting the tourism industry, cutting red tape and helping with a highly successful Olympics.’