The UK's tourism industry is being held back by a Government that ignores its benefits, according to Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association.
Speaking at a Conservative Party summit on tourism in Brighton yesterday, Cotton warned that financial incentives to the industry had been withdrawn and other capital allowances had been reduced, while funding for VisitBritain had been cut back just at the time when they were needed the most.
He said that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was responsible for tourism yet there was no tourism section in the department to oversee the biggest industry in its portfolio.
At the same time, responsibility for tourism was split between a number of competing national boards, government agencies, Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and local authorities.
"All are publicly funded but few bother to work - even to communicate - with each other," Cotton said.
"There is no national co-ordination. Some RDAs favour tourism, others do not. There is duplication of effort. Regional Tourism Boards have all but disappeared. Money is wasted. VisitEngland, representing a country which attracts three-quarters of all overseas and domestic visitors to Britain, has only just been set up."
As for the industry itself, Cotton said there was an overwhelming need for operators to provide even greater value for money.
"We have to raise standards and raise the quality of our tourism offering even higher," he said. "We need more new hotels, more new restaurants, more new tourism facilities. We need existing facilities updated. We need to gain a reputation for a warm welcome that's second to none."
By Daniel Thomas
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