It is not always easy to get enthused by the outpourings of the government-backed Office for National Statistics – recent studies include a “pesticide usage survey” and a monthly report on the slaughter of livestock – but one recent publication is of direct relevance to Dorset’s tourism industry.

Across the UK, according to the ONS, around ten per cent of all people in work are now employed in the travel and tourism sector. In the five-year period from 2009 to 2013, the travel and tourism workforce grew 5.4 per cent – to 2.81 million – while the number employed in other sectors increased by only 2.8 per cent.

Admittedly, 40 per cent of tourism’s employees only work part-time, and one in five of those say that’s because they cannot find full-time jobs. However, 28.5 per cent of tourism’s part-timers say they would work more hours if they could.

The key points here are that travel- and tourism-related businesses are taking on more staff, at a faster rate than other industries, and that those already working in the sector are keen to work harder.

Call me cynical, but one cannot help but feel that our political masters – actual or potential – may well be studying these figures very closely indeed. There is the little matter of a general election on the horizon, and “employment” will almost certainly be high on the vote-seekers’ agendas.

For far too long, tourism has been something of a Cinderella sector, at least as far as central governments (of whatever hue) have been concerned.

In Westminster and Whitehall, it comes under the umbrella of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport – tourism has been viewed as a frivolous little sideline, lumped in with galleries and golf, newspapers and netball. The general view has been that tax-payers’ money has been better spent elsewhere.

All that may be about to change. Tourism-related businesses, be they restaurants, bus companies, travel agencies or conference centres, are just that – businesses – and one suspects they are about to be recognised as such.

Government departments now have clear and official indicators as to the value of the industry, in social as well as in financial terms. Tourism creates jobs, and jobs drive economic growth.

As next May’s election draws ever-closer, it seems likely that we can expect to see political parties of all shades making manifesto pledges to take the sector more seriously than perhaps they have done in the past. In political terms, the potential return on investment is too great to be ignored.

For counties like Dorset, where tourism plays such an important part in the local economy, that can only be good news. Now is the time to start lobbying our local MPs to press the case for greater appreciation of the sector’s value.

Much of the ONS’ output is bafflingly obtuse, but the Employment In Tourism Industries 2009-2013 study should be required reading all prospective parliamentarians.