Jacob Rees-Mogg is blocking a major government-backed tourism campaign – despite being a strong advocate of ‘global Britain’.
The planned advertising blitz aims to bring tourists back from major international markets, including India, China, Australia, Japan and Canada, to boost visitor numbers in the wake of the pandemic.
But Rees-Mogg, in his role as Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Effectiveness, refused to sign off on the £800,000 Culture Department budget – part of an inter-Whitehall stimulus package agreed during the last spending review – despite agreeing a separate £4m budget. for VisitBritain campaigns.
This year international tourism is still down 20% from 2019 due to Covid, dropping 40% in August due to reduced airport or flight capacity, perceptions of the UK at the abroad and the initial rebound in post-pandemic travel.
Whitehall insiders have warned the Cabinet Minister that many small businesses and tourist attractions are suffering. Visitors from the 16 key countries account for a significant portion of arts and cultural institutions’ revenues, including more than 50% of expenditures at heritage sites.
Rees-Mogg, who is tipped to take over as business secretary under Liz Truss, is said to be skeptical of government advertising campaigns in general and to have doubts about the value of tourism promotions in countries whose populations may decide to travel to Great Britain in spite of everything. .
However, his decision to reject additional funding goes against his regular comments supporting ‘Global Britain’ and boosting the UK’s reputation internationally, while leaving the UK tourism industry struggling to catch up. delay.
A senior government source said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg is totally unsuited to modern governance. His instinctive ideological stubbornness has prevented the promotion of British tourism in major international markets, even as many sectors are still on their knees due to Covid. He can wrap himself in the union jack at home, but he doesn’t want to fly that flag abroad.
It is understood that Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston had raised the matter with Rees-Mogg, warning him that Britain risked falling behind other European destinations such as France, Italy and Germany to win back foreign tourists at a time when competition for business is fierce.
A source close to Rees-Mogg said: “It has been a long negotiation between departments. It is perfectly acceptable for ministers to question the value of every proposed campaign. Is this the best use of taxpayers’ money and will it produce the results they want to see?