The UK Government has announced the “first ever” tourism sector deal, which among other things aims to “prepare Britain for an extra 9 million visitors per year” and includes a commitment to build 130,000 new hotel rooms by 2025. As part of that there’s also a relatively small £250,000 boost for broadband connectivity.
Last year around 38 million people visited the United Kingdom (expected to increase by 9 million come 2025), which is said to have contributed £23 billion to the local economy. We note that the majority of these came from the EU and similarly around three quarters of UK residents chose to visit EU countries.
Suffice to say that the Government’s sector deals are designed to attract investment and growth, as well as to foster a bigger workforce with the appropriate skills (e.g. the new deal hopes to support the creation of an additional 10,000 apprenticeships).
In keeping with that we had hoped that the Government might do more to ensure ultrafast broadband, mobile and WiFi connectivity could reach popular destinations (a fair few of which are rural), both big and small alike. Unfortunately the new announcement only includes a commitment of £250,000 to “improve broadband connectivity in conferences centres across the UK for business visitors.”
Theresa May, Outgoing UK Prime Minister, said:
“As one of the most visited countries in the world, the UK is a world leader in international tourism and it is crucial that we remain globally competitive to meet growing demands.
That’s why today I am pleased to announce the UK’s first ever tourism sector deal, ensuring that we continue to innovate, boost connectivity and economic productivity, expand career pathways and break down barriers for visitors with disabilities.
This deal recognises the important role tourism plays, and will continue to play, in showcasing what our great country has to offer.”
In fairness the Government’s existing £67m Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme (GBVS), which offers up to £2,500 to help businesses (and £500 for some homes) gain access to a 1Gbps capable connection, can also be used to support some of the aforementioned plans.
Similarly the new £200m Rural Gigabit Connectivity (RGC) programme is working to foster rural “hub sites” for new fibre optic networks and offers even bigger vouchers, which are worth up to £3,500 for small businesses and up to £1,500 for residents in the countryside (it costs more to serve remote locations).
Many tourist hotspots have already got access to good connectivity but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.