Michael Hirst OBE, chairman of the Tourism Alliance, says the industry must unite to ensure British tourism gets the gold medal it deserves
Dealing with the ever-revolving door of tourism ministers, you could be forgiven for sometimes thinking we're out front in the Olympic 4 x 400m relay, having just completed two changeovers successfully, but now there's a real risk the next runner will drop the baton.
Still the announcement of Hugh Robertson as the new minister with complementary responsibilities for the Olympic legacy and sport, together with the appointment of Maria Miller as secretary of state for culture, media and sport, gives us a renewed opportunity to enthuse a new team about the intrinsic value of tourism and hospitality to the country's much-needed growth strategy and the undisputed ability of the industry to create jobs.
While some would argue the less government intrudes upon our business the better, we do need to build on the policy priorities already set out by the Tourism Alliance, improving our international competitiveness, such as aviation capacity, air passenger duty, visa processing, VAT, reducing the regulatory burden and introducing more competitive business policies; providing more support for tourism structures and marketing; improving quality and skill and improving sustainability.
Despite the alliance's significant achievements over the past 10 years, there are still calls to create one voice for tourism, which given the existence of the alliance, bringing together as it does over 50 trade associations working together on key policies, both undermines the industry's credibility and its ability to work together. It suggests there remains much more to do to raise the profile of the alliance and the collective work of its members. This is a task the alliance is fully embracing.
Thanks to the phenomenal showcase that has been the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We have imprinted upon the world Britain's attractiveness as a world-class tourism destination and vividly demonstrated how our professionalism, capability and British character can deliver a visitor experience unparalleled anywhere else.
To that end, our new minister with his tourism, legacy and sport responsibilities should be able to seize the baton at this latest changeover and ensure that tourism gets over the finishing line in first position and that tourism in Britain finally gets the gold medal it deserves.
We'll certainly be cheering for him to do so.