A sector deal for UK tourism

Government plans for an industrial strategy and calls for sectors to pitch for a deal is a one-off opportunity for tourism to be recognised as an industry of the future, competing globally and backed by Government.

In January 2017, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published an Industrial Strategy green paper. At the February Tourism Industry Council, a group set up to collaborate between government and the tourism industry, an agreement was reached that the tourism sector would push for a Tourism Sector Deal. The bid is being led by Steve Ridgway CBE, former CEO of Virgin Atlantic and current hotel owner, an industry leader and expert, in line with other sector deals. The bid is being facilitated by VisitBritain/VisitEngland who are helping the industry pull together its proposals.

As part of this industry-led process, the government stipulated that those sectors with the broadest reach, and ability to speak with “one voice” are the likeliest to achieve a sector deal. We reached out in particular to the 200,000+ small businesses in all the sectors that make up our vibrant tourism industry. More than 450 businesses and organisations fed into a consultation process to help shape the final outcomes of the submission by reaching out in particular to the 200,000+ small businesses in all the sectors that make up our vibrant tourism industry. 

At the end of September 2017, the Tourism Industry Council signed off on the following priorities:

  • A 10-year tourism and hospitality skills campaign to boost recruitment, skills and long-term careers providing the industry with the workforce it needs; 
  • Boosting productivity by extending the tourism season year-round and increasing global market share in the business visits and events sector; 
  • Improve connections to increase inbound visits from more markets by 2030 by making it easier for overseas and domestic visitors to not only travel to the UK but explore more of it; 
  • Creating ‘tourism zones’ to build quality tourism products that meet visitors needs and expectations, extending the tourism season and fixing localised transport issues to improve the visitor experience.

VisitBritain has now pulled together the formalised submission document (PDF 14.5KB). Whilst not every idea has been included in this process, Steve Ridgway was clear that there are a number of key areas that the Government needs to continue to understand and these are areas that may well be taken forward separately.

In November 2018, the Government announced they will be entering into an official negotiation with the tourism industry for a tourism sector deal, to attract more domestic and overseas visitors and help drive major economic growth.

Recognising the tourism industry as one of the UK’s most successful exports, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright has called upon the industry to respond with a renewed commitment to promote its offer throughout the year, not just in the peak summer months, and increase clear career paths.

The sector has been asked to look at the key themes of:

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


If Tourism achieves a Sector Deal as part of the Industrial Strategy, this is a really important milestone for the industry. It will mean being at the top table with other leading industries and making sure that the voice of tourism is heard loud and clear in the years and decades ahead.

A tourism sector deal

Tourism in Britain – both inbound, outbound and domestic – is built around a unique and world-beating experience. From ancient heritage to diverse and spectacular landscapes to world renowned product and service, Britain consistently finds itself amongst the most desirable destinations anywhere in the world.

Tourism is a core and vital sector within the British economy already. Accounting for 9.6% of all employment and 9% of GDP. Tourism is two and a half times bigger than the automotive industry, a bigger exporter than the insurance sector and is growing faster than the digital sector.

Key statistics underlining the importance of the industry:

  • 3.1m jobs.
  • £126.9bn and 9% of UK GDP annually.

Tourism is a big job creator – creating more jobs during the 2008/09 recession than other industries – and helping to lift the economy out of recession through sustained growth.

Tourism creates growth and jobs right across the whole country. Every single local authority has people employed in tourism, and in recent years, growth of tourism has played a significant role in the rebalancing of the UK economy.

Tourism sector deal process

There are three strands of work being undertaken at different levels. Four working groups have been created which are all industry-led and have organised themselves in different ways.

These groups are 1) Regulation, 2) Industry of Choice, 3) Connectivity and 4) Industry of the Future.

Steve Ridgway, the tourism bid leader, is meeting with a number of high-level business figures over the coming weeks.

VisitBritain (the British Tourist Authority) has agreed to support the bid process and will collate the current consultation document responses.

Next step: Find out more about the industrial strategy.