THE BLOG

Taking a Holiday Is the Best Way to Get English Regions Working

16/01/2015 09:48 GMT | Updated 17/03/2015 09:59 GMT

I'm sure the Deputy Prime Minister will enjoy his trip to Sheffield today to launch his new £10 million tourism initiative for the north of England.

Sheffield is a marvellous city and I hope he finds time to visit Europe's largest urban glass house containing over 2,000 species of plant; take in a play at the renowned Crucible theatre, part of the largest theatre complex outside of London; or even take a hike followed by a pint at a village pub in the stunning Peak District which surrounds the City.

This is exactly the sort of glorious diversity of attractions the Deputy Prime Minister's new plan will be promoting to visitors from overseas who don't know their Halifax from their Eccles.

Of the 29 million trips made to England by overseas visitors, just 12 percent are to the north. Not only are these tourists missing out on some of most stunning landscapes and hippest cites in the world, but our regional economies are also suffering with England's £106bn tourism industry dominated by London.

In 2013 the value of tourism in London grew by 39 per cent, compared to 16 per cent for the regions. We need to close the gap and tempt visitors to head north. The Government's £10 million will go a very long way to encourage people from around the world to stray beyond our great capital, by creating a strong brand identity for the north of England. VisitEngland will be managing the fund and our mission will be to make this area of England as well known, understood and loved as other famous tourism regions such as Tuscany or Provence.

The world needs to know what the north is really like today - its modern and traditional variety of sights, sounds, tastes and experiences. If we can create this compelling vision for visitors they will come. To know the north is to love the north.

And we know for sure that supporting tourism is one of the most cost effective ways of creating jobs and economic growth right across the country. Firstly, tourism is pretty recession proof. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that since the start of the recession tourism has grown by 14 per cent. This is higher than most other sectors including retail and financial services.

Tourism provides 2.6 million jobs in England and created new work twice as fast as other industries between 2009 and 2013. No doubt this latest £10 million from Government was encouraged by this track record of great returns from previous funding. For example, the £19.8 million recently allocated to tourism from the Coalition's Regional Growth Fund, has produced £527 million in extra spending and 9,800 new jobs so far.

And as we have seen, tourism is great for rebalancing the economy and has a Heineken-like effect, providing economic refreshment across the country. The sector creates a huge number of jobs, many for young people with 40 per cent of tourism jobs held by people under 30.

It also provides work for young apprentices and those with vocational qualifications, from chefs to chartered accountants. In fact 90 per cent of people working in tourism hold a formal qualification.

And tourism's working hours offer employment for busy families looking for jobs outside the 9 to 5 norm. We all love to get away and this is why since 2010 numbers working in tourism have grown by 150,000, far in excess of most other sectors.

As Chairman of VisitEngland I'm very lucky to have visited every corner of the north of England and I can't get enough of its unique character. Quite frankly I'm envious of those visitors who are about to discover this region for the first time thanks to Mr Clegg's faith in tourism as the rising tide that lifts all boats - or maybe that should be pedalos.