Tourism is already the largest industry, and continues to grow in importance. The innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the tourism industry has often been an example of local economic development at its best. Tourism can make a sustainable contribution to country's quality of life and open people's eyes to a range of experiences and cultures. Climate change poses direct risks to many of the natural features on which the local industry is based. Domestic tourism will be affected by changing weather patterns.One obvious consequence is that there will need to be more emphasis on domestic tourism, compared to international tourism. International visitor numbers are likely to plateau and possibly fall. Visits may be less frequent but of a longer duration.
Domestic tourism is a very important industry. There are significant cultural benefits if people see their own country before they head off overseas. Encouraging domestic tourism may also help pressure on the balance of payments; tourists spend a very large amount of money overseas but budget domestic travel is low.
The domestic tourism industry has never been higher, and no wonder given its sheer scale and its massive cash value. After years in the political wilderness, domestic tourism is now becoming recognized for its vital role in underpinning the social and economic fabric of many of the rural and urban communities.
Tourism employs significant numbers directly, but visitors also generate, or contribute to, a whole range of other economic activity. Ironically it took a series of steep, temporary declines, linked to major incidents, to highlight the important role of the visitor economy. Whether it is in keeping the village store in profit, providing the necessary market to justify vibrant local entertainment, restaurant and night life, or simply in helping to drive the volume of trade needed to sustain retail in our towns and major cities, the visitor is usually as important, if not more important, than the local resident. This fact is now becoming apparent to Government at all levels across the world. As a consequence we are now seeing strong signs that Government, for example, in Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Isles is prepared to invest to accumulate, rather than simply to fire fight when the latest major disaster affects one or more tourism sectors.
Within this socially and economically vital industry the biggest and most often misunderstood element is the coastal sector, including within it many of the larger traditional seaside resorts and popular rural coastal areas. Their contribution to the national tourism volume and value figures, are equally impressive, for example:
The British take 25.5 million seaside holidays in the UK, spending ?4.7 billion. England accounted for 19.1 million of these seaside holidays and ?3.5 billion of the total spend. In Wales the equivalent figures are 3.7 million seaside holidays and ?0.6 billion spend, and in Scotland 2.0 million seaside holidays generated ?0.35 billion. As a proportion of all holidays in England by the British, seaside holidays account for 27% of all holiday trips, 32% of all nights and 29% of all spend. In Wales, coastal holidays account for an even more impressive 44% of all holiday trips, 49% of all holiday nights and 45% of all holiday spend. In Scotland, because of the different product, coastal holidays account for a smaller but nevertheless important 19% of all holiday trips, 20% of all holiday nights and 15% of all holiday expenditure.
In addition to these overnight trips there were almost 270 million day visits made to the British coast, generating a further ?3.1 billion spend. On average each trip was of 3.9 hours with an average party size of 3.5 people. However, almost 1 in 4 (24%) of all seaside trips were made by people traveling by themselves. Of all these almost 270m seaside day trips, 200m seaside day trips were taken in England, generating a spend of ?2.5 billion. There were 25m seaside day trips taken in Wales with a spend of ?0.2 billion and 42m seaside day trips in Scotland, generating ?0.3 billion.