England's visitor economy can grow from £97b in 2010 to £147b and create 225,000 more jobs over the next decade, according to VisitEngland.
The headline aim, which represents 5% growth year-on-year throughout the decade, came as part of this morning's launch of the official tourist body's Strategic Framework for Tourism 2010-2020, at an event presented by actress Joanna Lumley and attended by tourism minister Margaret Hodge.
VisitEngland chairman Penelope, Viscountess Cobham, said that the body - which was formed last year after a six-year period where England had no dedicated tourist board - would "be relentless at pursuing our causes at the highest level".
The new strategy has set out four objectives, which are:
- To increase England's share of global visitor markets
- To offer visitors compelling destinations of distinction
- To champion a successful, thriving tourism industry
- To facilitate greater engagement between the visitor and the experience
But VisitEngland chief executive James Berresford stressed to an audience of tourism officials and industry figures from across the country that the strategy would require greater collaboration between industry bodies, local authorities and regional development agencies in order to work.
"The real success of this framework will be to get the often disparate parts of our sector to work together," he said.
He highlighted the opportunities for tourism by a series of major events taking place in England over the next few years including the Olympics, the Rugby World Cup, the Cricket World Cup and the Ryder Cup.
But he warned that "in certain areas such as quality of welcome, we have more to do." And he stressed the importance of maintaining the country's transport network, pointing out that 70% of all long-distance journeys in England are undertaken by tourists.
He called on all sections of the English tourism industry to help make the strategy work. "We won't make any difference at all unless this is embraced by all in tourism," he said.
However the tourist board did face concerns from some members of the audience that it would struggle to realise the ambitions of its strategy, given that it faced potential budget cuts after the next general election,
"We have no indication that our budget will be cut," Berresford said. But he argued that VisitEngland's budget was modest in any case, and that success would come from a more co-ordinated effort from the tourism industry at large.
Speaking to Caterer following the event, Lady Cobham pointed to the fact that local authorities currently have a budget of £122m to spend on promoting tourism, while regional development agencies have a further £47m and that gains could be made by those organisations better co-ordinating their efforts.
By Neil Gerrard
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