Coastal Tourism and Hospitality: Fiscal Support — [Judith Cummins in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall am 2:25 pm ar 22 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of James Murray James Murray Shadow Financial Secretary (Treasury) 2:25, 22 Chwefror 2024

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mrs Cummins. I congratulate Selaine Saxby on securing this debate on fiscal support for the tourism and hospitality industries in coastal areas. I put it on the record that, like her, I have benefited greatly from my conversations with Kate Nicholls at UK Hospitality.

I am pleased to respond to the debate on behalf of the Opposition. Hon. Members have spoken passionately about the importance of hospitality and tourism, the jobs they bring to local economies, the vitality they bring to our local areas and the enjoyment they bring to all our lives. As we have heard, the tourism and hospitality industries have been hit by a series of challenges, from covid to the cost of living crisis. The Opposition are clear that hospitality and tourism are vital to the UK economy and need a Government who are ready and able to help them thrive.

In 2019, the economic output of tourism-related industries was estimated at £134 billion, of which £74 billion was estimated to be generated directly by tourism. Those figures are respectively equivalent to 6.6% and 3.6% of the whole economy. Additionally, as I mentioned in a Westminster Hall debate a few weeks ago, on fiscal support for the hospitality sector hospitality provides 3% of the UK’s economic output, and billions in tax revenues for the Treasury.

Hospitality and tourism are important industries for communities across the country. As we have heard from the hon. Member for North Devon and others, they are especially critical to coastal areas. Coastal communities are particularly reliant on tourism and hospitality for employment and income. When the economy is not working as it should, those communities are more likely to suffer deprivation and unemployment. VisitBritain data shows that 10% of inbound tourists in 2019 visited England’s coasts and beaches, and those most likely to journey to the coast were on visits lasting a week or longer. That figure is higher in Wales, Scotland and the south-west of England. Such trips are vital to people’s livelihoods right across the UK.

In my west London constituency, we have no coasts that I can praise in this debate. But may I put it on record that when I occasionally leave Ealing North, I enjoy visiting coastal areas across the country, including Oban on the west coast of Scotland and Saltburn, Whitby and Staithes in North Yorkshire, and visiting my family on the south coast of England from Brighton to Fareham and Littlehampton?

Many hospitality and tourism businesses in coastal communities are finding it harder and harder to succeed, with high inflation, rising rents and the burden of business rates. At the same time, their customers find that they have less money to spend on enjoying what seaside hotels, pubs, cafés, restaurants and so on have to offer, as people have seen their wages flatlining while taxes and the cost of living climb relentlessly. Today’s debate is rightly an opportunity to recognise the central role of hospitality and tourism in British life, but it is also an opportunity to make it clear that those industries need a Government who will support them to thrive.

Labour will revitalise the hospitality and tourism industries. We will help coastal communities to get back on their feet after 14 years under the Conservatives. It is clear that the antiquated system of business rates is doing the industries no favours. As I set out in the debate on fiscal support for the hospitality sector a few weeks ago, hospitality and tourism businesses in coastal areas may have had hope when they heard the Government’s promise of a fundamental review of the business rates system in their 2019 manifesto. However, that review never materialised, and trade groups representing consumer-facing businesses have expressed their dismay at the Government’s inaction on that promise. In March last year, the Federation of Small Businesses responded to what the Government were doing on business rates by saying that

“the 2019 Manifesto commitment to hold a fundamental downward review of business rates has not happened…these changes do not amount to the fundamental overhaul the system needs, to reduce the chilling impact of a regressive tax that you pay before even earning a penny in turnover, let alone profit.”

We will not stand by while businesses struggle from year to year, facing uncertainty. As the shadow Chancellor, my right hon. Friend Rachel Reeves, has set out, if Labour were in Government we would scrap and replace business rates, shifting the burden away from hospitality and retail businesses, which continue to shoulder a heavy burden compared with those operating primarily in the digital economy.

Our new system would incentivise investment, promote entrepreneurship and reward businesses that move into empty premises. It would help the hospitality and tourism industries once again to thrive. Our plan to revitalise Britain’s tourism and hospitality industries is clear, so in advance of the spring Budget, I would be grateful if the Minister explained what representations he or the Government have taken from businesses in coastal communities, and what measures they are considering offering to address the points that hon. Members have set out today.

I am sure that many people across coastal towns will be interested to hear the Minister’s response, but whatever he says, we know that last week’s news about the economy being in recession will further have added to the sense of gloom facing hospitality and tourism in coastal areas, and indeed businesses in every sector in every region and nation of the UK. That is why our plan to get the economy growing is so important, to make sure that the tourism and hospitality industries in our coastal communities can thrive once again.