Heseltine berates leading tourist region

PETER VICTOR

The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine, last night attacked the way one of Britain's top holiday regions caters for tourists.

The tourism industry in Devon and Cornwall was "not being well managed enough". He said: "There are too many hotels and guest houses of the wrong kind in the wrong place."

Mr Heseltine, who launched a plea for better quality in the industry, was speaking to Torridge and West Devon Conservative Association in Tavistock. He said tourism contributed pounds 3bn to the local economy of the west country in 1994. One in six businesses in the two counties are in tourism but the industry is in decline. Although it was one of the fastest growing world industries, it was not growing in the South-West, where it had a vital role.

"Why? Not because the attractions of the South-West are any less. But let us be frank, because the industry is not being well enough managed.

"What does it take to have a modern, flexible sensitive tourism industry in the South-West? Whatever it takes, will local people do it? Tourism involves fashion, just like clothes, food, entertainment. It must constantly change with the fashion, and change quickly.

"In a global market for tourism, many people would now not even think of coming to the South-West. What they want is: the information they need, quickly enough, accurately and coherently; and the kind of accommodation they want, at a reasonable price. There are too many hotels and guest houses of the wrong kind in the wrong place.

"They want the food they like. People bring their tastes with them on holiday, they don't leave them at home. They want facilities that stay open in the evening. Tourists do not all go home at 5 o'clock. They want attractions that really are attractions.

"Those who are interested in niche markets for tourism want the special attention they deserve. Quality is the essential word."

Local people had to be at the forefront of radical restructuring in tourism and whether with inward investment, tourism or other business, the challenge for the South-West was leadership, above all else. It was the nature of the South-West that nothing would work without commitment delivered through a whole range of local organisations, working together to enhance individual contributions, Mr Heseltine said.

Last night it seemed as though the hotel trade across the southern region had already decided to put its house in order: hotel proprietors are being offered courtesy courses.

Tourism co-ordinators have discovered that foreigners who come to Britain for holidays believe that we do not make enough effort to communicate with them in other languages.

Hotel bosses are being urged to send their staff on the Welcome Host International scheme courses, at a cost of pounds 69 a head, on which they will learn basic greetings and customs in seven different languages.

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