Two long bank holiday weekends in a row is something we can all get excited about.
The weather looks set to be good, the Royal wedding is setting a national tone of ‘party’ and everyone is looking forward to getting out and enjoying themselves.
With such a collective national good mood, I thought it was a little churlish when the CBI and the FSB claimed the holidays will cost the economy £5bn, or £2.9bn, more or less. One business which will not be losing money, or its good mood, as we celebrate will be the tourism industry. It is thriving here in Hampshire.
When we talk about British business we tend to conjure up images either of London’s Square Mile or factories and assembly lines. Yet tourism is the UK’s sixth largest industry and it employs 1.3m people directly. In East Hampshire alone it is a £130m business attracting 3.5m visits every year. It’s a big part of our economy, local and national, and we have many reasons to celebrate it.
One of the great attractions of Hampshire is that we are only a little more than an hour’s train ride from London. This is a huge market for us to capture and we have new attractions opening all the time.
I attended the opening of the first section of Shipwright’s Way, a scenic path for walkers, cyclists and riders. Soon it will run all the way to Portsmouth, shadowing the traditional trip of timber from the forest to shipyards on the coast.
We need to do more, both locally and at a national level, to recognise how important tourism is to our economy. It’s a growing business and there is still a lot of potential.
Last month the Government launched its new tourism strategy, aimed at cutting red tape, improving services and better marketing Britain.
This is a welcome first step.