Senior hospitality figures have expressed dismay at the decision of tourism body VisitBritain to slash staff numbers by more than 11%.
VisitBritain, which markets the UK overseas, announced up to 55 redundancies last week as part of a restructuring initiative designed to maximise the potential of the London 2012 Olympics. The move comes three years after it cut 60 posts.
Although the organisation has called for voluntary redundancies and expects to create 10 new roles, the move to cut numbers was described as "disastrous" by Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on tourism.
"It is disastrous for the organisation responsible for marketing Britain to the rest of the world to be put in this position because of a lack of Government support," he said. "If the Government is serious about making money from the Olympics, they should be championing British tourism rather than undermining it through real-term cuts."
Stephen Dowd, chief executive of tourism trade body UKinbound, said he was shocked by the announcement. "These latest cuts are being portrayed as a strategic review but the sad reality is that VisitBritain has a funding crisis caused by 10 years of standstill investment in tourism," he said.
The Tourism Alliance has previously published figures showing VisitBritain's overseas marketing budget of £35.5m has been static for a decade, despite tourism benefiting the UK economy by £1b a year.
Chairman Tony Millns said: "If we are to achieve the £2b target that the Government has set for additional tourism revenue from hosting the Olympics, we need to increase VisitBritain's resources."
- Up to 55 job cuts, with the publishing department taking the brunt, and 10 new jobs created.
- The quality department, which assesses accommodation providers, moved into the commercial and marketing services team and run by Rupert Peters, who moves over from the Americas region.
- The marketing function of the entire organisation consolidated under marketing director Michael Bedingfield.
- The general managers overseas become regional directors, reporting directly to chief executive Tom Wright and leading on three regions: Asia Pacific, America and Europe.
By Daniel Thomas
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