The British Hospitality Association (BHA) is supporting VisitBritain's decision to withdraw from 14 countries, as a result of spending cuts, but is urging the tourism body not to ignore business tourism.
BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said that it was right that VisitBritain had decided to focus its attention on 21 key markets.
"Unfortunate though it is, the need for VisitBritain to refocus became imperative once the Government's 34% cut in funding was announced," she said. "It is far better to concentrate on key markets than to spread resources too thinly over a wider area and thus be far less effective."
However, the BHA is concerned that the business market, which is worth over £3.6b in overseas revenue, is not one of the priority markets.
"The corporate market is significant and many hotels in major city centres rely on overseas business travel and corporate meetings and events," Ibrahim said. "It's unfortunate that resources don't spread to this important sector."
Ibrahim went on to say that the cut in VisitBritain funding highlighted the importance of the submission by Visit England for funding from the Regional Growth Fund.
"The Visit England application is certainly the key to the future success of English domestic tourism. With a soundly financed, part match-funded programme, Visit England can really develop a three-year marketing campaign with local partners to encourage more people to holiday at home. If the bid isn't successful, the opportunity to boost domestic tourism will be lost."
Ibrahim also highlighted the many barriers to tourism growth that need to be removed.
"We have the second-highest rate of VAT in Europe when our key competitors have specially reduced rate of VAT for hotel accommodation and meals," she said. "Our visa costs are high and completing the visa forms is so complicated that more than 55,000 Chinese and Indian visitors were discouraged from entering the UK in 2009 because of this."
By Janet Harmer
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