The UK's leading hotel companies are getting ready to support a new four-year campaign which aims to market Britain as "the greatest show on earth".
About 50,000 tourism jobs and an extra one million overseas visitors could materialise as a result of the campaign, the Prime Minister announced at a Downing Street reception last week.
Cash and payment in kind has been pledged by Radisson Edwardian alongside other tourism operators such as British Airways, Lastminute.com and P&O, to help match the £50m of public money already committed by VisitBritain, to create a total fund of £100m.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Hilton Worldwide are also talking to the Government about contributing financial support to the campaign.
Kirk Kinsell, IHG's president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said the company fully supports the Government's vision to promote British tourism.
"We're currently working with VisitBritain to see how we can best support the campaign," he said. "We'd also like Government to review the case for a special reduced VAT rate of around five per cent on hotel accommodation to allow us to compete with our neighbours as an international tourism destination."
John Philip, area vice president for the UK, Hilton Worldwide, attended the briefing at No 10 and is liaising with VisitBritain regarding the company's future role.
"We hope the fund will achieve increased awareness of what the UK has to offer as a destination, increased visitors to our hotels across the region, and delivery of clearly defined and measurable returns on any investment," said a Hilton spokesman.
David Cameron said that the eyes of the world will be focused on Britain as never before over the next two years.
"A Royal Wedding, Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee and of course the London Olympic and Paralympic Games offer us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not just for national pride and celebration, but also to promote this country as the perfect tourist destination, helping to create 50,000 new jobs and bring £2b more visitor spending to the UK," Cameron said.
"Last year we challenged British businesses to help us put together the best tourism marketing campaign ever for Britain - something that will make us the must-see destination for visitors from new growth markets in Asia and Latin America, as well as core ones such as Europe and the USA.
"The response has been magnificent, with pledges of cash and kind from companies that mean we are well on the way to our target."
Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport, said that British companies had already dug deep to back the Government in promoting the campaign. "And I hope that others will pitch in, too - to become part of the global launch to market Britain as quite literally the greatest show on earth," he added.
The companies that have been announced so far are just the first raft of the founding partners of the campaign. Other companies involved in the tourism industry are being urged to sign up, too.
A key element of the marketing campagin is a series of commercials featuring globally recognised British stars, such as Dame Judi Dench (pictured). David Beckham and Daniel Craig have also been approached.
generating jobs for hospitality
The prime minister was told that a further 236,000 positions could be created by 2015 in the hospitality industry at a jobs summit on Monday.
The British Hospitality Industry, IHG and McDonald's attended the event, at which major companies from a wide cross section of industries were represented. Both IHG and McDonald's are already producing a large number of entry-level jobs which will allow young people to develop a hospitality career.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA, said that hospitality could create the extra jobs providing the right supportive framework is in place as outlined by the organisation's report, Creating Jobs in Britain - A Hospitality Economy Proposition. "It's critically important that government realises that this cannot be achieved alone," she said. "We need a positive partnership with government that recognises that policy and regulations can make or break this objective. Past governments have just not recognised the industry's job-creating potential."
Ibrahim said that she hopes to collaborate with government on a joint study that will show that lowering the rate of VAT on hotel accommodation will stimulate demand from both home and overseas, which will help to generate new jobs. She also wants to see needless regulations abolished.