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UK government introduces plan to capitalise on post-Brexit tourism market

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The UK government is capitalising on a weakened pound by unveiling a series of measures designed to boost the domestic Tourism sector.

Dubbed the Tourism Action Plan, the new initiatives will help Britain become the choice destination for tourists, welcoming more international visitors than ever before and increasing the number of “staycations” as Brits opt to holiday on home soil.

To make it easier for people wanting to explore the UK, the government will implement a new GREAT tourism rail offer, with a series of new single-booking itineraries encouraging travel around the country.

For seasonal workers, such as those working in the hospitality sector, a new flexible apprentice scheme will allow businesses to train staff over a period of 18 months rather than 12 months.

To help B&B offerings, the government is planning to introduce regulatory changes to allow the accommodation providers to serve alcohol, also modifying vehicle licensing to allow B&B owners to pick up visitors from stations.

The Tourism Action Plan is supported by a £10.2m (US$13.5m, €12m) partnership between VisitBritain and Expedia, which will market Britain abroad to several key markets including the US, Germany and France.

Casting an eye on drawing international visitors to parts of the UK outside of London, the government has also announced projects that will get part of its £40m (US$52.9m, €46.8m) Discover England fund – a lifeline the Tourism Alliance said last year would help create thousands of jobs.

The funding package will be divided across numerous projects, with the aim of promoting the country’s great cultural and sporting assets. Of the seven announced so far, five are based in the south of England with projects in Kent, Surrey and Devon. Gloucestershire-based Compass Holidays has also gained funding to develop its tourism app, while Birmingham-based Leopold Marketing will develop UK Tourism outside of London and Scotland.

“The fund attracted an exceptional number of high quality bids, far outweighing the allocated funding available for year one,” said a statement from VisitEngland. “We are pleased to have chosen some excellent winners, including the South West Coastal Path and Visit Kent and Cheshire’s ‘Gardens and Gourmets’, and we will now be working closely with them to build world-class ‘bookable’ tourism products that showcase the best of England to international and domestic visitors.”

2015 was a record-breaking year for British tourism, with more than 36 million overseas visitors spending £22.1bn (US$29.2bn, €25.9m).

The pound has fallen from $1.49 on the day of the Brexit referendum in July to lows of $1.28 in July and August – the lowest numbers since 1985. Mostly seen as a negative, Britain's decision to leave the European Union has further bolstered UK tourism, with the weaker pound encouraging staycations, while also drawing more overseas visitors.

Following the announcement, Tourism Alliance director Kurt Janson praised the move, but said that there were issues that still needed to be addressed.

“The tourism industry is delighted that the Prime Minister recognises the importance of the tourism industry and its ability to provide further growth and employment opportunities for the UK,” said Janson speaking to Leisure Opportunities.

“The announcement of funding for the development of new tourism products, new initiatives to facilitate travel around the UK and cutting regulation for tourism businesses, will certainly help the industry and support regional economies.

“While this is a very welcome initiative, there are a number of important issues that we need to continue to work with the government to address. This includes aviation capacity in the South East, reducing air passenger duty and ensuring that we negotiate a future relationship with Europe that retains all the agreements that facilitate travel and enables the industry to employ people with the necessary skillset to provide continued high quality service.”

Commenting on the Tourism Action Plan and allocation of funds from Discover England, Prime Minister Theresa May stressed the importance of tourism to the British Isles, which she said was going from “strength to strength”.

“Our stunning scenery, centuries-old monuments and cultural traditions continue to draw visitors from both home and abroad,” said the Prime Minister.

“The British people’s decision to leave the European Union creates real opportunities for growth and we will work in close partnership with the tourism industry, to ensure it continues to thrive as negotiations on the UK’s exit progress.

“We are making it easier for visitors to travel beyond London and experience all of the world-class attractions the UK has to offer, to make sure the benefits of this thriving industry are felt by the many and not the few.”

“We will make sure Britain is even more attractive, accessible and welcoming to visitors.”

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The UK government is capitalising on a weakened pound by unveiling a series of measures designed to boost the domestic tourism sector.

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