EFFORTS to boost tourism at home have been backed by Oxfordshire MPs, who urged the public to experience the best of what the county can offer and support local businesses.

Politicians visited tourism organisations in their constituencies for Visit England’s English Tourism Week, which aimed to promote tourism businesses and destinations as they reopen and start to rebuild. County activities were led by local group Experience Oxfordshire.

MPs were also joined a discussion on the importance of the visitor economy to Oxfordshire, the severe impact the pandemic has had on the sector and the support needed for recovery.

Over 30 million trips were made to Oxfordshire in 2019 with the visitor economy supporting over 42,000 job and contributing over £2.5 billion a year to the county’s economy. The pandemic has had a devastating effect,

Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds visited the New Theatre in Oxford. She said: “I was excited to hear about their plans for re-opening. The theatre has been through an extremely challenging time and as we move to the next stage of the road map, I hope that the New Theatre, alongside Oxford’s other fantastic theatres, will be able to re-establish themselves and thrive.”

Banbury MP Victoria Prentis visited Bicester Motion – the motoring centre and events venue being developed at a former RAF base on the edge of the town. She said: “It was great to meet the team at Bicester Motion today and find out about their exciting plans for the future. This multi-use site is not only already home to many great businesses but also has an ambitious development plan to ensure they become a future destination to visit in their own right. It is heartening to see investment plans of this size and scale as we move out of the pandemic and into recovery.”

Witney MP Robert Courts met staff at Heythrop Park Resort at Enstone. He said: “Hotel and conferencing venues have been severely impacted by the pandemic and I was delighted to see in place all the safety and hygiene protocols that this property has undertaken to welcome guests back.

“This is a stunning property and a great reason to visit Oxfordshire. I would like to thank Experience Oxfordshire for managing the extensive programme of activity this week as business engagement in the locality is extremely important to me.”

In the south of the county, Wantage MP David Johnston visited the confusingly-named Courtyard by Marriott Oxford South – which is actually in Milton, Didcot. He said: “It has been great to visit and see the wider visitor economy reopening across Oxfordshire. We understand that there are still challenges ahead for the sector, but it is great to see the positive attitude of the hotel team in welcoming business and leisure visitors back to the property and staff back to work.”

Hayley Beer-Gamage, Chief Executive of Experience Oxfordshire, said: “We have been delighted to see so much political engagement locally from MPs across Oxfordshire. It has been a challenging time for the travel and tourism sector and the week was a chance to raise the profile of the sector and our businesses. It has given the opportunity for our partners to engage with MPs and talk directly about the issues facing them and the support required.

“Experience Oxfordshire will continue to champion our sector to national and local government and support businesses as we move through recovery. We are all looking forward to the visitor economy thriving again in the future as we welcome locals and visitors back to Oxfordshire.”

Henley MP John Howell joined a discussion on local tourism. He said: “It was a great opportunity to hear direct from businesses on their issues and concerns and re-assure them that government is working hard to assist recovery where possible. The visitor economy is hugely important locally and I want to be able to support businesses in my constituency where I can.”