VisitEngland has reported a growth in domestic tourism as the country still feels the pinch of the recession. As several regions across the country reveal that occupancy or ticket sales are up, the association’s Chief Executive James Berresford is confident that tourism businesses will continue to do well in the future. “People are experiencing a renaissance in the English tourism product,” he explained. “The staycation shouldn’t be seen as a cheap alternative because there is quality.” Domestic tourism was boosted 18% last year as the ash cloud, tighter budgets and exchange rate caused a rise in the staycation trend. In addition, VisitEngland’s latest survey shows that 51% of hotels and 42% of camping businesses have seen an increase in guest numbers. Also despite prices dropping for overseas holidays, more than half of accommodation businesses said they had not discounted this year. “Early indications from our industry survey show that 76% of those questioned are confident that they will have done as well as or better this year,” commented Berresford. “Around 83% think they are going to have a great autumn.” Members of the VisitEngland board told Travel Daily that it valued travel agents, although there are no plans to develop training or relationships at this time. However, with the amount of sports, outdoor activities and cultural events available all over England, the association suggested that there is scope for agents to build itineraries, particularly for families. Berresford, Minister for Tourism and Heritage John Penrose and VisitEngland’s Chairman Lady Penelope Cobham agreed that value for money, experience-led trips were the best way to promote England as a destination. Penrose suggested that travellers can take long weekends in the country’s cities, rather than travel abroad . “Those are the questions we should be posing to people and that where we can get people spending more in the UK,” he explained. “We take this country for granted and should not underestimate what is on our doorstep.” “59% of people in this country feel they don’t make enough of their spare time,” added Cobham. “This is a real opportunity for us to capitalise on.” Meanwhile, Penrose was confident that Air Passenger Duty taxes would not make England a more expensive destination, so long as value for money was found elsewhere.