The UK's tourism bodies have slammed last week's news of major job cuts at VisitBritain, labelling the move symptomatic of the Government's continuing failure to take the industry seriously.
VisitBritain, which controversially had its budget slashed by the Government last year, started redundancy talks with staff last week. As part of an enforced restructure, its London team will be slashed by 40% to about 135, while a quarter of staff at its overseas offices will go, leaving about 145.
It is the fourth time in five years that the organisation has faced restructuring.
Labelling the move "extremely disappointing", Bob Cotton, chairman of the Tourism Alliance, said: "Even more disappointing is that the decision has been announced at a time when the industry is still being consulted by VisitBritain on the British Framework Review.
"To undertake this restructuring before the results are known pre-empts any conclusions the review might reach."
UKinbound joined the Tourism Alliance in condemning the cuts. Chief executive Stephen Dowd said: "Having already shed more than 120 posts within the past two years, these latest cuts will seriously undermine VisitBritain's ability to deliver its core functions - let alone the additional demands of promoting the UK during the run-up to the 2012 Olympics."
The Tourism Society said that VisitBritain's reduced capacity to win business for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, was a blow to the industry that would cause losses to the economies of the home nations far in excess of any perceived "savings".
Last month the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport warned that the Government was "failing to give the necessary support to UK tourism during a challenging period for the industry".
The group of influential MPs also described the decision last year to cut VisitBritain's funding by 18% as "baffling".
Further details of the tourism agency's restructure will be given in October.
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By Chris Druce
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