The Government must recognise the value of travel and tourism or lose out in the intensifying global battle for visitors, according to the head of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
Speaking in London last week at the release of the Tourism Satellite Accounting report, WTTC president Jean-Claude Baumgarten warned the UK against complacency.
"The prime minister needs to take a lead, create Cabinet responsibility for tourism and send out a clear message of support," he said. "We have seen this approach work well in India over the past four years."
Baumgarten blamed poor planning by politicians for airport development grinding to a halt and congestion rising, particularly in London. "Major decisions need to be taken in the UK in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics," he said.
"The UK is competing with over 170 countries, all fighting for a piece of the global tourism pie."
He also described marketing body VisitBritain's budget as inadequate.
The UK is the world's sixth largest travel and tourism economy, generating £182b a year.
It accounts for 9.4% of the country's gross domestic product and 2.6 million jobs.
Global travel and tourism market activity is set to grow 4.6% this year and 4.2% each year over the next decade.
UK travel and tourism activity will grow by 3.1% a year over the same period.
By Chris Druce