Stephen Dorrell, Secretary of State for National Heritage, will make a keynote speech in Nottingham today outlining how he sees his department's future. He will emphasise that he sees money generated by tourism as more important for the health of the arts than funding by the taxpayer.
In a briefing last night, he said far more British people could take their holidays in this country, helping local economies. He added that weekends spent in Paris could also be spent here.
When asked for an example of a British destination to rival Paris, he replied: 'A weekend at the modern music festival in Huddersfield has a lot to recommend it. You get better modern music in Huddersfield than you do in Paris. There's a big opportunity to generate foreign earnings in tourism in this country.'
Asked where he took his holidays, Mr Dorrell said he took some abroad and some in Britain.
As the first secretary of state at the department to emphasise his responsibilities for the tourist industry, Mr Dorrell added that he was considering giving the industry more opportunity by loosening some of the regulations inhibiting it. He mentioned as one example planning restraints that could prevent hotels expanding.
He said that the British tourist industry did not always help itself sufficiently. The 'managed tour' was less well developed here than abroad, he said. One could easily get a tour operator to lay on a trip to Vienna with specific cultural visits, but it was far less easy for foreigners to buy a tour of London. Some tourist facilities were also too expensive, he added.
Mr Dorrell gave as an example of tourism and the arts combining the Tate Gallery in St Ives. 'It touches the lives of every citizen of St Ives because it gives a wide variety of people an extra reason to visit the town. It gives an extra dimension to the life of the community and constitutes a persuasive illustration of the power which links tourism and the heritage. The most powerful single weapon at our disposal is our responsibility for tourism,' he said.
However, Mr Dorrell's speech today will be viewed with some apprehension in the arts. It is clear he is saying that high-profile arts companies cannot rely on taxpayers' funding but must turn to tourism and broadcasting of events to bring in more money.
He is to say: 'For some in the world of heritage, taxpayers' support has been a bedrock which has made possible the pursuit of excellence. Increasingly, however, we must recognise that taxpayers' support . . . should not be properly regarded as a subsidy of last resort but as part of a wider strategy to mobilise the resources which the vigorous development of the National Heritage demands.'
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