Region’s tourism riding the crest of wave as jobs in sector soar

Fireworks light up the sky above Leeds Town Hall in celebration of the Yorkshire Grand Depart Le Tour de France 2014.
Fireworks light up the sky above Leeds Town Hall in celebration of the Yorkshire Grand Depart Le Tour de France 2014.

Yorkshire’s tourism industry is riding the crest of an unprecedented wave of jobs as the region prepares to capitalise on next year’s Tour de France Grand Depart.

New figures show the number of people working in tourism in the region soared between 2010 and 2012, despite a national economy which stubbornly flat-lined throughout the period.

Some parts of North and West Yorkshire saw the number of people employed in tourism roles increase by almost 40 per cent over just two years, according to figures produced by Deloitte for national tourism body VisitBritain.

And the success story looks certain to continue, as the figures do not include the massive boost to tourism the region is now enjoying since securing the first stages of the 2014 Tour de France, or Hull’s successful bid to become the next UK City of Culture.

“We have always believed that tourism is a powerhouse sector – a creator of jobs, growth and an essential way of reducing the national deficit,” said Gary Verity, chief executive of regional tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire.

“The positive figures, virtually across the board for Yorkshire, in this report on job growth in tourism is welcome news, and further backs the argument that tourism creates jobs for all and grows economies.”

Tourism is already estimated to be Yorkshire’s third biggest industry, employing around a quarter of a million people and worth an estimated £7bn a year to the local economy.

The new figures show tourism jobs increased in 16 of Yorkshire’s 21 local authority areas between 2010 and 2012, despite the generally gloomy economic picture.

Most of the 16 enjoyed hefty double-digit percentage increases, including a 39 per cent rise in jobs in Calderdale, a 38 per cent rise in Craven, a 25 per cent rise in York, and a 19 per cent rise in Scarborough.

Separate figures published by city tourism agency Visit York yesterday confirmed visitor numbers to the city are booming, with 
visits to its main attractions up eight per cent since the start of 2013 compared with the previous year.

In September Visit York recorded a massive 90.6 per cent hotel room occupancy, the highest for any month since the official tourism survey began in 2007.

Kate McMullen, head of Visit York, said: “We’re delighted with these fantastic figures. The increase in occupancy levels demonstrates a strong trend for visitors to stay for two or more nights.

“York is performing very well and attracting visitors from all across the UK and overseas.”

The Deloitte report showed tourism jobs also soared by more than 15 per cent in Ryedale, Selby, the East Riding, North Lincolnshire, Harrogate and Wakefield.

The numbers pile further pressure on Chancellor George Osborne to offer support for the thriving industry in this week’s Autumn Statement.

A long-running campaign wants the Chancellor to cut VAT for the tourism industry in order to bring it in line with other European countries, so encouraging both domestic and foreign visitors to holiday in Britain.

However, campaigners have now been told there is “no prospect” of success after separate figures released by the Treasury revealed the cost of cutting VAT to five per cent for the hospitality industries would run into billions.

Treasury Minister David Gauke said: “Based on data from 2012, the revenue foregone by reducing VAT to five per cent on all hospitality – which includes rooms, food and alcohol -– would have an estimated cost of £11bn-£12bn a year to the Exchequer.

“This would undermine the Government’s fiscal strategy, risking a loss of credibility that could have a far larger negative impact on the economy than the positive impact that might be expected as a result of a VAT cut.

“While there is no prospect of a VAT cut for tourism, the Government is committed to a wide range of measures to support tourism that we believe are better targeted and more cost effective.”

These measures, he said, included a series of national tourism campaigns and visa measures to make it easier for Chinese visitors to enter the country.

Nonetheless, the coalition is still criticised by civic leaders for a perceived lack of support for the industry, having abolished the dedicated post of Tourism Minister and cutting all funding for Welcome to Yorkshire.

Whitehall drew further ire for opposing the agency’s successful bid to bring the Tour de France to the region. Ministers have since provided £10m towards the hosting of the event, but have refused to provide any money for the agency to market Yorkshire to a global audience.

Mr Verity said: “Today, Yorkshire tourism is booming, and that is largely due to the imminent arrival of Yorkshire’s Grand Départ of the Tour de France, something we and our partners have worked extremely hard on and continue to do so to reap maximum benefits.

“We will continue to lobby for extra central funding from government to achieve this.”

Not all the figures in the VisitBritain report are positive, however, with parts of South Yorkshire faring badly – and Hull suffering an enormous 33 per cent drop in the number of people working in tourism over the two-year period.

However, it is widely expected the city is now poised to enjoy a massive tourism boost after being awarded City of Culture status for 2017 last month.

Nationally, Deloitte said tourism has been one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK in employment terms since 2010, responsible for one-third of the net increase in UK jobs between 2010 and 2012. The report describes recent employment growth in the sector as “stellar” – more than four times the rate of manufacturing.

It forecasts that the tourism economy will be worth around £127bn this year, equivalent to nine per cent of the UK’s GDP.

The sector is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 3.8 per cent through to 2025 – significantly faster than the overall UK economy.

Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of VisitBritain, said: “Tourism has become a bedrock of the UK economy – generating a third of the UK’s net new jobs between 2010 and 2012 – and still has the ability to grow at levels that will lead other industries out of the economic slowdown.

“Inbound tourism is already one of Britain’s top export industries, and will continue to be the fastest growing sector of the industry, with spend by international visitors forecast to grow by over six per cent a year.

“To achieve the industry’s full potential, we need to continue to raise our game, marry policy and marketing and promote Britain even more aggressively overseas.”