The MP for Totnes, Anthony Mangnall, recently welcomed Tourism Minister Sir John Whittingdale to South Devon to meet business leaders and discuss the sector at a local level.

The two visited Dartington, Rattery and Pennywell Farm, which offered an opportunity for the minister to hear from those working in the tourism industry, and allowed Mr Mangnall to make the case for how South Devon can be a model for others to follow.

Mr Mangnall and Sir John started the visit at The Shops at Dartington, where they heard from the Dartington Trust and other tenant businesses about the summer season, as well as learning about the gin-making process at Devon Distillery.

Following lunch, the pair travelled to the Pennywell Farm where Dr Chris Murray showed them around the award-winning attraction and highlighted the team’s ongoing work to maintain visitor numbers.

Mr Mangnall and Sir John were then joined by representatives of Visit Devon, Torquay Riviera BID and the Professional Association of Self Caterers to discuss the local tourism sector’s performance in more depth.

Despite visitor numbers being down this summer compared to recent years, members of the Great South West Tourism Partnership are reportedly working together to support businesses and collect the data that is needed to drive the industry forwards.

Speaking after the visit, Mr Mangnall said: “Through my tourism and hospitality roundtable group I have a strong understanding of what these sectors need.

“The Minister’s visit was focussed on making him aware of what is working in South Devon, and what more needs to be done to ensure we see real and long-lasting growth in these two important areas.

“If we can get it right for tourism and hospitality then we can grow our local and national economy, so I am particularly grateful to Sir John and his team for coming to South Devon to learn more about what we do so well.”

Sir John said: “I was delighted to spend a day in this beautiful part of the country with my colleague, who is a fantastic champion for South Devon. It was great to meet retailers, to enjoy excellent local fare and to visit the wonderful Pennywell Farm to meet the owner, his staff and visitors. I got a real insight into how much South Devon has to offer and would recommend it to everyone as a terrific holiday destination.”

Sally Everton of Visit Devon said she was delighted to meet both politicians, and to highlight the challenges facing businesses.

She said the main points were recruitment and retention of staff, increased costs, and in particular energy, wages and food costs.

“Our data-hub project funded by the Heart of the South West LEP, is vital to us and we emphasised the importance of up-to-date data and how vital that is to our sector for future growth, especially in a county that relies so heavily on the visitor economy.”