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New VisitBritain role shows signs of neglect

14 December 2006 by

The terms of the appointment of the new chairman of tourism marketing-body VisitBritain have been attacked as an example of the Government's neglect of the industry.

The recruitment of former Visa chief executive Christopher Rodrigues as figurehead of the organisation that markets the UK abroad and England domestically has been broadly welcomed. But opposition MPs and industry leaders claimed the six-day-per-month commitment it requires - cut from eight - illustrates the low priority the Government places on tourism.

Shadow tourism minister Anne Milton said: "Once again tourism isn't getting the recognition and focus it deserves. Cutting the hours of the chairman says it all - Government is showing precious little commitment to the industry."

Don Foster MP, culture spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, added: "We welcome the appointment but are concerned that the days the chairman will be working have been cut further to six."

Kurt Janson, director of policy at the Tourism Alliance, said the Government was trying to save money. "This is a good appointment as Rodrigues has a strong background in the industry," he said. "However, I think the fact it's only six days a month suggests there were budget restrictions at play here."

Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, welcomed the appointment but questioned the ongoing existence of VisitBritain.

"I'm delighted with the appointment but believe UK tourism would be better served with the abolition of VisitBritain," he said. "I'd like to see England, which contributes the majority of the UK's tourism income, given a stronger national role relative to Scotland and Wales. We need to look at current funding structures and ask if VisitBritain has a purpose."

By Chris Druce

E-mail your comments to Chris Druce here.

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