A more sensible way to promote tourism


An interview in the Daily Telegraph with Tourism Minister Barbara Follett prompted me to check out the new "Tourism Strategy" recently published by the Department of Culture Media and Sport.

The strategy is almost entirely devoted to making the Olympics a booster for tourism. More importantly, it shows just how true the old adage is about any pot of taxpayers' money being like honey for the busy bees of the public purse.

In her remarks about her plans, the minister revealed some unintentional truths about government support for tourism. Eight government departments have responsibilities relating to tourism, but she also pointed to five other publicly funded organisations and four QUANGO-managed initiatives chewing on the public purse to "promote" tourism.

Unravelling QUANGO budgets is as always nigh on impossible, but if we take an average of 50 staff members in each entity or initiative paid at the average wage of £25,000pa involved in the above that's £11.25 million in wages alone on this industry "support". If you double that for the cost of interference by the eight government departments you get a public-expense equal to almost exactly a quarter of the entire £85 million turnover of the industry.

How about disbanding them all. Taking that expense off National Insurance taxes in a staff intensive industry and you' could have a 20% price reduction on all UK holidays – which 95% of people say are overpriced.

Governments love to govern, but they so often achieve outcomes that are the opposite of their intentions.