The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee launches 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.
Although England has seen a rise in tourism spend in the past year from both domestic and international visitors, figures published by Visit England show that in 2014 just 18% of domestic overnight trips were taken to rural areas, down from 22% in 2012. Over 50% of international spend was in London.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Committee, said:
"Tourism in rural areas creates job opportunities and supports the economic viability of communities. At a time in which volatile agricultural prices and depopulation threaten businesses and rural services, we are asking how effectively public programmes and government policies support these areas to stay competitive in a global industry. We will also be asking how we can work to make the growth of countryside and coastal tourism sustainable, balancing economic, social and environmental interests."
Terms of reference
The inquiry looks into a number of matters relating to supporting rural growth, in particular 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;
- Support farmers and rural residents to diversify into tourism and grow their businesses;
- Ensure visitors' experiences are balanced with the need to preserve the environment and the character of local communities
The Committee is seeking written submissions on the following key questions:
- Marketing: How well do agencies promote rural destinations across England? What more should the Government do to support this work?
- Access: What, if any, changes are needed to give people better access to the coast and countryside?
- Funding and fiscal policies: How can public funding be best targeted to get new rural tourist businesses off the ground and keep them going? Are changes needed to tax levels and business rates?
- Planning and regulation: What, if any, changes are needed to planning and other regulations covering rural areas of special character, such as National Parks, to encourage sustainable tourism?
- Infrastructure and skills: What measures are needed to ensure transport, housing and other infrastructure meets visitor needs? How can the sector ensure there are enough people with the right skills to support customers and businesses?
- Local environment and character: How can national and local policies get the right balance between growing tourism and enhancing the local environment and character?
- Defra role: What more should the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs do to ensure government departments (including Departments for Communities and Local Government, Business, Innovation and Skills, Culture Media and Sport and HM Treasury) support rural tourism?
Notes on submissions
Written evidence should be submitted online via the rural tourism in England inquiry page. As a guideline, submissions should be no longer than 3000 words. The Committee values diversity and seeks to ensure this where possible. We encourage members of underrepresented groups to submit written evidence.
Deadline for submissions
The Committee asks for written submissions by Tuesday 6 September 2016