The coalition Government was heavily criticised today for dragging its feet on its promises to promote UK tourism by Ufi Ibrahim, the chief executive of the British Hospitality Association.
Speaking at the Hospitality Show in Birmingham, Ibrahim expressed frustration that the Government had not kick-started its plan to help the industry boost its competitiveness and had failed to have any impact in marketing the Olympics.
David Cameron was one of the first prime ministers in decades to recognise the importance of the hospitality industry to job creation. Last summer he pledged to work with the trade to stop the decline in the UK's competitiveness globally. He also backed an initiative to encourage more Britons to holiday at home.
But Ufi Ibrahim believes Government's efforts so far have been woefully inadequate.
"The tourism strategy is being postponed and postponed," she said. "What is it that we are waiting for? We are seriously slipping as a destination choice. We are getting worse while the competition are getting better. It's a double whammy."
The BHA predicts that 236,000 new jobs could be created within five years if competitiveness improved. The UK is currently ranked 11th in the world in terms of tourism and hospitality when it used it be in the top 5 countries.
Ufi emphasised the threat posed by nations like China, which has invested billions in a bid to put travel and tourism at the heart of its economic transformation. She called on Government to get its act together urgently.
"Unless we do things differently in this country very quickly, there is not going to be enough benefit from the Olympics beyond what's happening in London, "she said. Some 4.7 bn viewers watched some part of the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing. How are we going to get maximum exposure like that for the UK? The Olympics made Barcelona what it is today. There is nothing to say that cannot be achieved here but we have to do something about the opportunity now".
The BHA will be pushing Government agencies to support partnership in the regions so that Welsh and Scottish tourism also benefits from any potential Olympics business.
By Jane King
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