British Tourism Week is a chance for all to promote and defend the industry

12 March 2007
British Tourism Week is a chance for all to promote and defend the industry

The British Tourism week launches in London today, and Grant Hearn, chief executive of Travelodge, see this as a perfect opportunity for the industry to fight its corner.

This week sees our industry hosts the first ever British Tourism Week.

From the moment Prince Charles launches the initiative today (Monday 12 March) in London until Friday, this often undervalued industry is aims to put on a show of strength and depth.

While VisitBritian and the Tourism Alliance have begun the process of rallying the industry together, it ultimately falls on business leaders to defend and promote the industry more effectively.

Until now, we have collectively failed to do this but I am confident this is about to change.

And that, in essence, is what British Tourism Week is about. I feel it is time to challenge out-dated perceptions of tourism. If we are to start punching our weight, government decision-makers must be persuaded of the long-term economic value of tourism.

Tourism is experiencing a renaissance with 2005 a record year for inbound tourism. Visitors grew 9% and spending 8% promoting the UK to 5th in the international table of tourism earnings.

The economic value of the sector is placed at £102b making it Britain's 5th largest industry. It employs 2.2 million people and accounts for 5% of GDP.

Looking forward we have the 2012 London Olympic Games. Despite concerns over costs and benefits, it is my opinion that the 2012 Olympics will produce value for money for UK PLC and therefore is worth supporting staunchly.

The 2000 Sydney Games generated 2.5 times its costs in legacy benefits. If UK tourism could deliver similar, it would exceed the £2b figure forecast by Tessa Jowell.

However, we have warned the Government that an Olympic economic legacy is not automatic, as some host cities have discovered.

As part of British Tourism Week we are urgently calling for a clearer marketing structure, early planning for overseas marketing campaigns, a one off increase to VisitBritain and VisitLondon's budgets of £25m each, additional powers devolved to the Mayor to oversee planning decisions and a full-time tourism minister.

Recent decisions by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to initiate tourism policy reviews demonstrates an encouraging renewal of interest yet the Government remains indifferent to its potential.

Tourism budgets have been frozen under Labour since 1997, while the DCMS budget has risen 61% and broadcasting by 182%.

The industry generates £44 for every £1 of government money invested in inbound tourism yet there is no evidence that tourism is on Gordon Brown's agenda.

Severe opposition to Sir Michael Lyon's proposed bed tax as an instrument of local authority funding illustrates the industry's new found appetite to fight its corner.

These are just some of the issues facing the industry and it's time politicians gave us a fair hearing.

Caterer loves… British Tourism >>

View more news on Say No to Bed Tax here >>

Caterer Blog: Tory Tourism consultation >>

View more news on the London Olympics here >>

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