The Government's tourism strategy was today strongly criticised in a report by an influential committee of MPs.
The Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport warned that the Government is "failing to give the necessary support to UK tourism during a challenging period for the industry".
It described last year's decision to cut VisitBritain funding by almost 20% as "simply baffling" and called for a reversal of the move.
The report also warned that because responsibility for tourism has been so frequently transferred between departmental ministers, the impression has been created that it is seen as an afterthought which has to fit in with their other responsibilities.
The committee concluded that it is not too late to realise fully the tourism benefits of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, but that a greater investment from the Government is necessary.
Committee chairman John Whittingdale said: "Tourism is one of the UK's most important industries and yet it has been consistently sidelined by the Government, if not ignored. Its most recent decision to cut the budget of VisitBritain by nearly 20% seems extraordinary.
"To do so in the run-up to the Olympic Games, which represent a huge opportunity for British tourism, is simply inexplicable. This is a huge missed opportunity which the Government urgently needs to put right".
Responding to the report, Don Foster, tourism spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "This is a damning indictment of the Government's approach to tourism since 1997. Lack of investment in the industry has led to Britain's share of the global tourism market falling.
"Ministers have got to support the industry with more than just words if they are serious about making tourism a key part of the 2012 Olympic legacy."
Grant Hearn, chief executive of Travelodge, added: "The Select Committee has perfectly understood the flaws inherent in the Government's approach to tourism, but unfortunately this is nothing new to those of us in the industry. What should be new is a rapid response to the issues raised and remedies quickly identified.
"We must seize the moment before the once in a life time opportunity that the Olympic Games offers us is squandered through inactivity and poor planning. The current situation of underinvestment in marketing Britain abroad and the lack of a coherent Olympics tourism strategy cannot continue."
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it would respond fully to the report "in due course" but insisted that the Government is "already delivering" for the tourism industry.
"As well as doubling the dedicated national funding for tourism over the last 10 years, we're putting £500m a year into improving the industry's skills base, and we've just put in place a major regeneration scheme for our seaside towns," a spokesman said.
"Public funding for tourism in the UK continues across the board with £350m invested in 2006/07, but it is up to everyone involved in the public and private sectors to make our investment work smarter by working in partnership together."
By Daniel Thomas
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