Britain's successful Olympic Games can help "turbo-charge" the tourism industry, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (pictured) has said as he announced the Government's plans to launch a major push to boost visitor numbers.
Hunt said he wants to increase the number of overseas visitors by a third to 40 million by 2020 on the back of the London 2012 Games and particularly target the growing Chinese market.
The Olympics have helped make London "one of the most desirable places to visit on the planet", Hunt said. "We must use this extraordinary year to turbo-charge our tourism industry, use this opportunity and run with it to the finish line."
The Coalition plans to invest £8m in extending its Great marketing campaign internationally, with a special focus on China as it aims to treble Chinese visitor numbers to 500,000 by 2015, increasing spend by £500m.
The Culture Secretary also pledged a further £2m to fund a national advertising campaign in 2013 to encourage more Brits to holiday at home, with VisitEngland set to double its domestic holiday package deals online.
Hunt denied accusations from hospitality and retail operators that the Government overhyped transport issues in the run up to the Olympics, which resulted in visitors steering clear of the capital leaving central London a ghost town.
"It's a situation where as a politician you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't issue such warnings]," Hunt said. "The fact is that London Underground experienced its busiest day ever during the games with 4.25 million passengers travelling on a system that, despite its age, functioned perfectly."
He added: "Of course it's different to a normal year so there are different people coming in and some people are staying away. But businesses should think about the long term legacy and opportunity of the games, the buzz and excitement that exists in London now."
By Kerstin Kühn
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