The Mayor of London has said tourism remains a cornerstone of his development strategy for the capital, despite predictions that funding cuts will kill-off tourist board Visit London.
A spokesman for London Mayor Boris Johnson reiterated that tourism remained a fundamental pillar of the economic development strategy for the capital, stressing it would not be sidelined as funding priorities are reassessed in the wake of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review.
VisitBritain, the UK's national tourism agency, suffered a cut of more than a third to its four year budget as part of the review, and news that the London Development Agency (LDA) is to end its £12m annual funding of Visit London has caused "extreme concern" amongst industry representatives.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association
"Without a tourist board, London will lose out badly as a world tourism destination in the coming years."
The association has written to Johnson and business secretary Vince Cable outlining its concerns, pointing out that Visit London's activities deliver not only leisure guests to the capital but significant conference and related business.
The mayor's office, which has a wide range of responsibilities across the capital other than simply tourism, is currently locked in negotiations with government officials to achieve a settlement, with a decision due before Christmas.
Johnson and his team are likely to receive a pot of money to spend on economic development in London as a whole, and while tourism is seen as a key economic driver, it will have to compete with other interests - such as sport in the capital - from a smaller pot of money than the original LDA funding.
Ken Robinson, chairman of the Tourism Alliance, expressed grave concern about London's ability to generate the £2bn tourism legacy from hosting the 2012 Olympics without Visit London in place.
He added: "While tourism to London and the UK will continue even if funding it not made available to Visit London after 31st March 2011, the cost in terms of lost income to Britain will be very high."
"Furthermore, the core marketing functions that Visit London undertakes cannot be accomplished by collective activities by the private sector alone. Despite the importance of tourism and hospitality to London, the industry comprises mainly small and medium sized businesses who cannot participate in major overseas promotional programmes. Most of London's major tourism-related companies are internationally based and will not readily favour any one destination over competitor city destinations in Europe or elsewhere," said Robinson.
The news comes days after the coalition's immigration cap fuelled fears of a skills crisis in the UK's ethnic restaurant kitchens.
By Chris Druce
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