Did you know the overall contribution to the UK economy from outbound travel stood at £37.1 billion last year?
If you take into account inbound and domestic tourism, the sector is even more impressive.
Research from the World Travel and Tourism Council revealed travel and tourism was the fastest-growing industry in the UK in 2019, accounting for 11.9% of all jobs (ahead of financial services at 8.9%), and generating £231.6 billion for the nation’s GDP.
Given these stats, one would expect travel and tourism to rank highly on the government’s agenda.
But as last week demonstrated, Westminster, it seems, still fails to appreciate the significance of the industry.
First there was the appointment of yet another new tourism minister (the third in a year) with a huge shared brief of Commonwealth Games and gambling and lotteries, although at least this minister has some experience of travel.
Then there was the government’s new skills and immigration policy announced on Wednesday.
It proposes the introduction of a “points-based” immigration system, preventing those it views as “low-skilled” workers from receiving visas to work in the UK – a move likely to adversely impact a number of sectors, including hospitality and tourism.
Abta is concerned – especially because of what it might mean for reciprocal arrangements with the EU as the UK enters trade talks.
There are 15,000 UK travel roles reliant on the EU Posted Workers Directive. Could these be at risk? UK Hospitality boss Kate Nicholls is also worried. “These proposals will cut off growth... and likely [lead to] business closures,” she says.
Few disagree about the importance of holidays – they are a cherished part of our lives and, as the Family Holiday Association highlights this week, they’re also critical for our mental health.
But the sector only thrives because of its varied skills base. It is crucial the government takes note of the contribution the industry makes – both to economy and society – before it’s too late.