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The Caterer

Reshuffle lacks logic

12 October 2012 by
Reshuffle lacks logic

The recent change in tourism minister is a pointless exercise without a more powerful hospitality champion, says Pride of Britain's Peter Hancock

The appointment of yet another minister whose responsibilities happen to include tourism, following Mr Cameron's recent reshuffle, has barely registered with most of my contacts in the hotel world.

While John Penrose was rightly admired for showing commitment to the job I fear his achievements will be quickly forgotten and the department in which he served is now considerably reduced.

To most people, a tourist is a person on holiday away from home and not one's neighbour standing in the local pub, yet each is a customer of one industry requiring a powerful champion. In countries like Brazil, the minister for tourism is also the head of the nation's tourist board. What a brilliantly logical arrangement.

Let us imagine for a moment that Christopher Rodrigues, who chairs VisitBritain, was given the red box and an office in Whitehall. Would he spend his days writing letters to himself begging for support? No, he would use his position to gain access to the chancellor and others to try to prevent the introduction of measures that are harmful to business and he would surely stand a greater chance of winning such arguments from within government.

He would be perfectly placed to show where economic growth and new jobs come from when barriers are removed and at a stroke he could simplify the way funds are distributed for the promotion of Britain as a destination. He wouldn't even need to stand for Parliament if given a peerage first.

By contrast, Hugh Robertson is saddled with responsibility for sport, the National Lottery, the Olympic legacy, gambling and ceremonial matters, not to mention his constituents, all on top of that wide-ranging tourism brief. It would be foolish to expect very much from him, even if he stays in post as long as his predecessor, but I hope he will find the time to listen to the British Hospitality Association which represents our concerns with crystal clarity and offers positive solutions, too.

The irony is that a job well done is often rewarded with promotion to a bigger ministerial role, while perceived failure spells a return to the backbenches. Either way, it is the fate of every tourism minister to be shuffled off far too soon.

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