Experience Oxfordshire brings visitor economy operators during English Tourism Week 2023

 Thursday, March 23, 2023 


Experience Oxfordshire hosted a cross-party virtual round table discussion as part of English Tourism Week, bringing together three of the county’s MPs with members from across the visitor economy to consider the current issues facing the sector.

CEO, Hayley Beer-Gamage, welcomed Robert Courts MP (Witney & West Oxfordshire), Anneliese Dodds MP (Oxford East) and David Johnston MP (Wantage & Didcot) who gave their insights and advice on questions pertaining to national policies and local interests.

With the county’s tourism related value and employment figures still significantly lower than those of 2019, staff recruitment and retention, market demand and shortages on the supply side were hot topics for debate.

Hayley Beer-Gamage commented: “We’re very grateful for our MPs’ time this morning and the insights they brought to the issues we’re all currently tackling.  The latest economic impact survey results show a significant recovery in volume of trips and related expenditure compared to 2020, but in terms of value our visitor economy is still 36% down on 2019 and 33% down with regards to employment.

It’s therefore vitally important that, as a sector, operators in the visitor economy work together to raise its profile, and build awareness of its value, to ensure it gets the support it needs for the full recovery of the destination.”

Robert Courts MP commented that the visitor economy was intrinsic to the county and that without it the county would be poorer in every respect.  He called on the sector to come together in a strategic alliance and consider at a granular level what action is required to address the issues raised.

Anneliese Dodds MP stressed the need for good career’s advice early on to make young people aware of the benefits of working in the sector and the breadth of excellent training facilities in Oxfordshire while David Johnston added that there was an additional task in building awareness amongst parents and teachers of the varied career paths offered.

Experience Oxfordshire Board Member, Dominic Hare also of Blenheim Palace, extolled the benefits of the apprenticeship programmes with Blenheim Palace on track to have worked with 200 individuals over ten years.  Fellow Board Member, Miranda Markham, echoed Anneliese’s comment adding that the sector has many career success stories, at Bicester Village over 60% of employees are under 24.

After responding to further questions relating to accommodation stock, the reintroduction of tax free shopping, lowering VAT charged on entrance fees to visitor attractions and a look at what the outcome for 2023 might be, all MPs stressed their support for the sector and for the vital work delivered by Experience Oxfordshire in promoting Oxfordshire as a leading destination for tourism, culture and business.

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