The Government has been urged to reorganise the bodies promoting England overseas and back them with more cash after it was revealed that the Irish government has allocated €800m (£528m) over the next seven years to Tourism Ireland.
The joint north-south body has earmarked €335m (£221m) for international marketing, €317m (£209m) for product development and infrastructure and €149m (£98m) for training and human resources. A spokeswoman for Tourism Ireland said: "We've been able to get our act together by having a very strong programme of support from government."
This prompted a call from Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, for the UK Government to address the confusion caused by Scotland and Wales's devolution and the introduction of nine English regional development agencies (RDAs).
Kurt Janson, policy director for the Tourism Alliance, demanded more money for promoting tourism, pointing out that per head of population, Ireland invests 13 times the level being spent by the Government. The call was backed by Bernard Donoghue, head of governmental affairs at VisitBritain, who said the £35m budget to promote Britain overseas had declined in real terms by 18% since it was frozen in 1997.
"The Irish exchequer understands the importance of tourism for the Irish economy and is prepared to invest for long-term success," Donoghue said. "We need greater government investment in the promotion of Britain to secure the tourism legacy of the 2012 Olympics."
Grant Hearn, chief executive of Travelodge, added his weight to the calls. "Irish tourism is thriving due to cuts in holiday accommodation VAT and 10 years of increased marketing spend," he said. "Compare this to a UK Government considering a bed tax and failing to increase marketing spend and it becomes clear why this country faces a £17b tourism deficit."
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By Emily Manson
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