Encouraging Tourists to Britain
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ONE of our most promising sources of foreign currency, and particularly of that which is known as "hard," is what is now often referred to as the tourist industry. For many years the Briton had the reputation of possessing a fairly well-developed migratory instinct. Much of this was, of course, exercised at home, but many thousands went abroad for their holidays. Now, we must do all that we can as a nation to encourage the greatest possible influx of tourists from overseas.
It is estimated that before the recent war visitors from abroad represented an annual financial gain of some £30,000,000, whereas Canada achieved over £63,000,000 and France some £80,000,000. Now, it is hoped that, within a reasonable time, our yearly income from this source should reach £100,000,000, much of it in dollars, and even at the present depreciated value of the pound, the dollar content would be considerable.
At one time people abroad, particularly in America, took the view that only the rich could afford a trip to Britain. To-day, with the dollar standing high and earnings in America also at peak level, people who would not formerly have appreciated the possibility of reasonably long holidays here are finding that it would cost them little, if any, more' than to take them in their own country.
Visitors Must Be Pleased Their faith in the joys of such vacations must, however, not be damped by their experiences during them, otherwise they will return discouraged and advise others not to venture in the same way: It will, perhaps, be difficult to provide every "facility which they enjoy at home, but it is of the utmost importance that we --bould do our best to please them in every possible direction. The former Socialist Government gave little more than lip service to this work. Its Catering Wages Act has, in fact, caused all those engaged in this sphere a great deal of difficulty and forced them to face additional problems at a period when they were least equipped for the task. It has made efficient service at .early and late hours highly costly and, in certain cases, wellnigh impossible, for the overtime rates are extremely high, and few but the most expensive establishments can afford to duplicate staffs, even if they be obtainable.
Apart from this, at a period when hotel accommodation is likely to be in great demand, Government-controlled agencies are taking over large hotels, in some cases with hundreds of bedrooms, to be used as offices for various boards and departments. These are not in out-of-the-way places which might not attract a large clientele, but at famous seaside resorts, whilst there are others in London and elsewhere which are still not released from war-time requisitioning. This also applies to large blocks of flats.
Catering and Transport Vital Factors On the food side, we must also do far more than is the present practice. It might be as well to allocate to special premises catering facilities on a larger scale than those possible with the normal ration. The need is, perhaps, more for variety than increased quantity, but we must not expect those who live in lands of plenty to appreciate what is little more than a war-time diet.
Of all the facilities which the average tourist requires, however, safe, comfortable travel is probably the most important, and here road transport can play a leading part if it receives the measure of encouragement which is its due. Coaching holidays have long been popular in Britain. There are many large and small concerns in this field which organize long and short tours on an all-in basis, and in most cases they have proved satisfactory and enjoyable to the participants.
Many of the vehicles employed are well equipped, of modern type and kept in a fine state of maintenance, but nothing less than the best must be devoted to the service of foreign tourists. In this connection, any cutting down of the supply of new vehicles would exercise an extremely bad influence—rather should the allocation of coaches he increased and additional licences granted.
Some remarkably handsome and comfortable types have been particularly designed' for this Class of work At least two and another in model form will be available for inspection at the British Motor Show in New York from April 15. These alone should indicate to many Americans, either by direct viewing or through their Press, the attention which these manufacturers, coachbuilders and operators are giving to this important matter. Arrangements have also been arrived at with many agencies in the States and elsewhere by which the cause of travel services by British operators will be advanced.
The Switching of Divers
THE Licensing Authorities are being faced with an interesting and important problem— that of the legality or otherwise of temporarily transferring drivers from one company to another, perhaps for only a day. The point is that, according to the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, the person who must hold the licence of a vehicle is the user, and it is provided that the user is the person who employs the driver.
The crux of the problem, therefore, is as to whether a driver on loan from another user, whose wages are temporarily paid by the operator of a vehicle not owned by the former, is for that period in the employ of this operator. It is understood that the wages would include everything in the way of insurance and other contributions. It has happened that two or more companies individually distinct in respect of their shareholding, staff and accounts, although, possibly, with one or more of the same directors, may operate entirely separate fleets, even from the same group of offices. In such a case it would seem ridiculous to enforce the position that drivers in one fleet who are disengaged for the day should be paid for doing nothing while there is a dearth of them in another fleet, and we little doubt that in some instances an exchange is effected.
It appears, however, that a serious view of such a procedure is being taken by some of the Authorities, who claim that such action is illegal and that vehicles operated in these circumstances are infringing conditions attached to the licences.
In a particular case which we have in view, the " offender " has been told that he will be informed later as to what action will be taken following a cogitation in bureaucratic circles. In the meantime, it will be of interest to learn the views of other operators upon this matter.
If the procedure outlined be forbidden, some consideration should be given to the possibility of modifying this particular requirement in the interests of economy and the conservation of manpower. It must be remembered that the Road Haulage and Road Passenger Executives are apparently allowed to switch drivers to any vehicles which they are qualified to drive, for the reason that they all come under the same employer.