Ministers mull autumn bank holiday

By Alex Stevenson

The May Day bank holiday could be shifted to the autumn, under government plans published today.

In a move which would bolster the hopes of nationalists, ministers have announced they are to consult on creating a new St George’s Day holiday in England in a bid to extend the season.

In Wales the extra holiday would take place on St David’s Day. The news will be welcomed by Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams, who called for a public holiday on the Welsh national day in a comment piece for earlier this week.

Comment: Why isn’t St David’s Day a public holiday?

Other recommendations made in the tourism strategy published today include making tourist boards smaller ‘industry-led partnerships’, creating ‘alternative destinations which match London’ and making it easier to acquire tourist visas.

“The next four years are set to be the most important and successful for this industry in more than a generation,” tourism minister John Penrose pledged.

“The challenge is huge, but the rewards for us all could be greater still.”

The government hopes to increase the number of visitors to the UK by four million over the next four years and by doing so increase the money they spend in Britain by £2 billion, boosting the £90 billion the tourism industry already contributes to the economy.

With the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics due next year they are likely to get a welcome boost, but Mr Penrose hopes other steps – like helping improve staff skills by increasing the number of apprenticeships – will also help.

Shadow culture, media and sport minister Gloria De Piero said the “much-hyped” strategy had little to offer the tourism industry, however.

She picked out the section of the report highlighting that “our weather is substantially better than people think” for special scrutiny.

“First George Osborne blamed the weather for the fall in economic growth, now it seems ‘making the visitor economy more resilient to bad weather’ is their big plan to boost tourism,” she said.

“It’s not the British weather that’s putting a strain on the tourist industry, it’s this Tory-led government’s policies.”

Ms De Piero added: “As for making the making the sector more resilient to bad weather, what are they going to do – build a giant umbrella over Stonehenge?”