The Forum of Private Business (FPB) is campaigning to promote tourism in the UK by encouraging cash-strapped holiday-makers to explore the diversity available on their doorsteps this summer.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than £35 billion is spent each year by tourists fleeing the UK – money that would provide a real economic stimulus by supporting many small businesses struggling to survive the recession.
Research by VisitBritain, which is the UK's national tourist authority, suggests that, despite money being tight, most people in the UK (55%) are refusing to cut back on holidays. Instead, they are planning to reduce spending on more frequent, lower-value purchases, such as food (80%), fuel (74%), clothes (67%), and entertainment and other ‘luxuries' (67%).
"Despite the recession, holidays are still seen as essential and are not being sacrificed easily. There is a potential market of holiday-makers increasingly viewing the UK as an attractive destination, including many who already live here," said the FPB's Chief Executive, Phil Orford. "The value, diversity and level of service provided by small businesses in the tourism sector should be shouted from the rooftops. Promoting UK tourism is vital for economic recovery."
Although there has been a recent surge in the value of the pound against the euro and dollar, since the end of July 2007 the pound has fallen by 27.7% against the euro, meaning that UK households travelling abroad will need to spend an additional £8.15 billion this year.
However, real value for money can be found in the UK by taking advantage of cheaper travel, and the range of offers and deals that are currently available. The FPB is urging business owners to spread the word by actively promoting their products and services. According to VisitBritain:
About 20% of people who took a foreign holiday last year plan to save money by choosing the UK instead.
51% are ‘put off' travelling abroad by concerns over rising flight costs.
36% are concerned about the ‘unpredictability' of tour operators following the collapse of XL last year.
Mike Bedingfield, VisitBritain's Marketing Director, encouraged businesses in the UK's tourism sector to maximise these opportunities.
"As the research shows, we are reluctant to give up the holidays that are an increasingly important part of our lives. However, the economic downturn is likely to affect the kinds of holidays we take, whether here in the UK or overseas, and the length of these," said Mr Bedingfield. "Now is the time to be investing in marketing campaigns to remind consumers of the value-for-money experiences they can enjoy through innovative marketing."
FPB member Capernwray Diving Centre is located in Lancashire. The company offers professional scuba training and pleasure diving in its large outdoor pool, a former quarry. Submerged are all manner of objects for divers to explore, with the most recent addition being a huge passenger aircraft.
"When learning to dive, people tend to associate the activity with exotic places, but many are surprised to find that opportunities exist at places like the gin-clear limestone quarry at Capernwray," said Dive School Manager Adam Hanlon. "Fish and all manner of esoteric objects await divers, together with all the facilities that you would expect of a top flight PADI five star dive centre."
He added: "The best bit is that we are just off the M6, in beautiful countryside on the fringes of the Lake District. We think it is a rather special place."
In the south of England, in Devon, the Torbay Hospitality Association (THA) was established in 1918. It is the UK's largest private sector tourist organisation, with a membership of more than 300 hotels, restaurants, camp sites and tourist attractions.
"The UK's long-term weather forecast states that summer 2009 is going to be very good, and that is one of the main reasons for people to stay at home and holiday in the UK," said the organisation's Chairman, Gordon Oliver. "When you holiday in the UK, you do not have to endure long waits or delays at airports to reach your destination as it is just as quick to travel to various parts of the UK by car, rail or coach."
He added: "Torbay is the second largest resort in Britain, with 22 miles of coastline and some of the best tourist attractions in Britain. It offers a wide range of holiday accommodation, from hotels to self-catering accommodation – there is something for everyone."