The British Hospitality Association (BHA) has slammed the Government's failure to support tourism in England as a "lost opportunity" to meet the industry's aim to create 236,000 new jobs, after tourism body VisitEngland's bid for funding was rejected.
VisitEngland had bid for £29m for domestic tourism promotion but missed out on the first round of grants totaling £440m to be dished out by the Regional Growth Fund (RGF).
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, described the decision as very disappointing, saying it "takes tourism nowhere."
"It ignores the prime minister's promise in the Government's own Tourism Strategy to take tourism to a ‘whole new level' and ‘harness the huge potential that this area holds for our economy'," she said.
James Berresford, VisitEngland's chief executive, shared Ibrahim's disappointment. "Essentially the programme was designed to stimulate economic growth and employment through tourism across the country," he said.
"Tourism has been identified by the Government as one of the few industries that, if properly stimulated, can create the business growth and employment opportunities the country needs to sustain its economic recovery."
The BHA has written to the prime minister, and the tourism minister, John Penrose MP, to protest at the lack of interest in tourism from the Regional Growth Fund.
Ibrahim said that the prime minister's view that tourism was one of five ‘big-ticket' industries of the future and one that the Government ‘should get behind' was echoed by the chancellor in a recent speech in which he highlighted it as a key industry in the Government's Plan for Growth.
"Research by the BHA shows that hospitality has the potential to create 236,000 new and additional jobs by 2015. Further BHA research to be released shortly will indicate the major contribution that hospitality makes to the economy and job creation in every local authority area," she added.
"However, without adequate support from available funds the job-creating potential is at risk.
"This is made worse by the removal of £60m of annual tourism funding, which has been lost with the abolition of Regional Development Agencies - and which is further compounded by local authority cuts and big reductions in the VisitBritain and VisitEngland budgets.
"The decision is a totally lost opportunity to create more employment throughout the country."
She added that the BHA was hopeful that VisitEngland's bid would be successful in the next round of RGF funding. "But all the time, we are losing time and momentum," she said.
By Janie Stamford
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