GOVERNMENT minister Maria Miller hailed the importance of tourism to the UK economy during a visit to Torquay.
The Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport said work done by places like South Devon College in training people in the hospitality industry was vital to the prosperity of the county as a whole.
She was addressing members of the Torbay Tourism Association at the Livermead House Hotel on Torquay's seafront last Wednesday.
Guests had gathered for a special lunch to reward students in the catering section of the college with scholarships.
But her message to guests was designed to reach a wider audience and spread the message that the Bay and the south west region as a whole was 'open for business'.
The minister began by saying her usual view was of the opposition front bench during Prime Minister's Questions.
"But I don't think anybody could top the view I have now," she said referring to sunny Torquay seafront.
"It's an astonishing place. I think the English Riviera with the sun shining down on us is the place to be."
This week, the minister announced an extra £2million was being made available to flood affected parts of the country.
The money will provide practical advice and support to tourism businesses.
The minister recognised that tourism bosses in Torbay had been working hard to help those most affected.
"I hope you can see the support coming through," she said.
"You've been working hard to say its business as usual in the south west and Visit England have been working hard to support you in that message.
"People's holidays here will be just as enjoyable as in the past. The sun is shining on the English Riviera as we speak in early March — it's extraordinary and Devon is open for business."
She heaped praise on the area's visitor attractions, including Torre Abbey and Kents Caverns.
"It's an amazing place and you do have a gem in this part of the country."
She said the hundreds of millions of pounds that visitors spend in the region each year 'speak for the hard work of the sector in this part of the world'.
And she said places like South Devon College 'played a hugely important role in developing the skills so necessary in this industry'.
Earlier, the minister had visited Newton Abbot to see the latest developments in super fast broadband.
She travelled to Staplehill Road in Newton Abbot with Newton Abbot MP Anne Marie Morris and representatives from Devon County Council to view 'cabinet 44', part of the multi-million-pound Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband programme.
Since it was launched last year, CDS has already installed 79 broadband cabinets across the two counties and made the high-speed technology available to more than 18,000 homes and businesses.
By the end of July, the project will have reached 70,000 premises.
Newton Abbot MP Anne Marie Morris said: "I'm delighted we've taken another step on the way to 90 per cent of Devon and Somerset being connected with superfast broadband."