One of the most useful pieces of advice I've ever received, is that
‘the best things in life are free’.
Well the best things in life are free – and there is nothing better –
at least to me, than spending time in the glorious outdoors of our most beautiful and wonderful countryside that we have in this country.
Our countryside is diverse and unique and is an integral part of who we are. It shapes us and we shape it.
As a former soldier, as well as the pleasures of our countryside, I've also experienced some of the hardships of time spent outdoors!
Whether it's been long, cold, wet, sometimes very wet, exercises on remote training areas in South Wales
or endless long marches, sometimes carrying logs, and heavy packs
over undulating ground in North Yorkshire,
Night navigation exercises on Dartmoor,
And parachuting onto Salisbury Plain – all of these activities –
some of which I've enjoyed more than others(!)
but all have informed my view that being out there – on foot, in Britain is a truly civilised, liberating and brilliant experience.
As the Shadow Culture Minister I have -amongst other things, responsibility for Tourism and Heritage, which affords me the opportunity to champion the great and the good of Britain,
And to make the case for why promoting our tourist assets is of huge benefit to our local, regional and national economies.
And following on from an amazing summer, Britain is very much on the tourist map
and regarded as a tourist destination of choice and we must continue to capitalise on that.
Throughout our Olympic summer, Britain was the most televised,
most photographed and most talked about country in the world.
The opening ceremony began with a picture of the ‘England’s green and pleasant lands’,
A choir singing on the steps of Edinburgh castle,
The sandy beaches of the Welsh coast
And the rocky edges of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Clearly, the London Olympics can only do so much by themselves
but as we look to inspire a Generation,
my hope is that the Olympics have inspired people to become more active and to visit the great outdoors that we have here in Britain.
This doesn’t mean that everyone has to become the next Jessica Ennis, Mo Farrah or Greg Rutherford.
It also doesn’t mean they have to be the next Kenton Cool, Alan Hinkes or David Hempleman-Adams.
But it does mean that working together we should articulate the benefit that people will get by getting out into Britain – on foot.
So it comes as little surprise to me, that so many people seek to enjoy the great outdoors either on holiday, on a day trip, or just getting out when they can.
That is partly because the outdoors is free and it’s easily accessible.
It is open to everyone to enjoy and experience.
As Anna Soubry will make clear, it also offers us the chance to stay healthy as a nation.
We should celebrate that there is a real appetite for the outdoors and the countryside and I am delighted that ‘Britain on Foot’ is launching today.
I am privileged to travel the country and meet with people and businesses that are working in the British tourism industry.
It is an industry that has a proven track record of delivering jobs and growth.
One in eleven working people are currently employed in tourism alone
and last year's additional tourism expenditure – according to the Tourism Alliance, totalled enough to create 76,000 new jobs.
So I am committed to ensuring that we increase tourism across all regions and of course in our countryside.
And I support all efforts to do that.
Right here in Westminster, tube station posters are advertising my region of Yorkshire and Humberside and encouraging visitors to take the two hour train journey to Yorkshire and visit our beautiful countryside.
And we should do more to make it easier for tourists who visit London,
to get out to the different regions and enjoy our outdoors in all parts of the United Kingdom.
It is true that as politicians we have to do better at showcasing our regional tourist assets, especially as levels of staycation continue to increase and holidaying at home becomes ever more popular.
And that means making the strongest possible case for the countryside and the great outdoors at every possible opportunity.
As I said at the beginning, the Olympic ceremony beamed images of our great outdoors around the world and
Now we have the task of ensuring that this truly is a golden era for British tourism.
I believe that one of the ways that we can make ‘Britain on Foot’
the success we all want it to be,
is to make sure that we are working with local tourism boards such as 'Welcome to Yorkshire' and 'Visit Heart of England' in the Midlands.
These organisations do fantastic work and are vital to ensuring that tourism plays a leading part in our local and regional economies.
So a coordinated approach to tourism, will ensure that we maximise our assets and showcase the very best of Britain.
The countryside is a wonderful and peaceful place – somewhere people can relax and reflect.
It may seem like a million miles away from Westminster, but I am determined to ensure that the countryside’s footprint is felt in parliament and that ‘Britain on Foot’ can play its part as we look, to inspire a generation
and support our valuable tourist economies.