AN influential committee of MPs has launched an inquiry into the role of tourism in supporting rural growth in England.
Rural tourism provides around £17 billion a year to the English economy. But rural communities face some particular challenges to tourism growth such as transport connections, restrictions to broadband access and seasonal employment.
Now the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) select committee has launched an inquiry into how rural tourism can be supported.
Committee chairman Neil Parish said: “Tourism in rural areas creates job opportunities and supports the economic viability of communities.”
MPs would examine how effectively public programmes and government policies support rural areas to stay competitive in a global industry, he added.
England has seen a rise in tourism spend in the past year from domestic and international visitors – but over half of the money spent by overseas tourists is in London. Figures by Visit England show that in 2014 just 18% of domestic overnight trips were taken to rural areas – down from 22% in 2012.
The inquiry will examine how more people from at home and abroad can be encouraged to visit more of England’s rural places, for longer and at all times of the year.
The Committee asks for written submissions (which should be no longer than 3000 words) by 6 September 201
The Government’s Five Point Plan for Tourism, published in July 2015, explicitly seeks to drive tourism beyond London. Taking this further, the Select Committee’s inquiry is focusing on how government policies can encourage more people, both from the UK and abroad, to visit more of England’s rural places, for longer and at all times of the year; how to support farmers and rural residents to diversify into tourism and grow their businesses; and how to ensure visitors’ experiences are balanced with the need to preserve the environment and the character of local communities.