The prime minister can't just rely on big events to sell tourism

06 May 2011 by
The prime minister can't just rely on big events to sell tourism

An estimated global audience of two billion watched last week's Royal Wedding. Once again, we proved that when it comes to the pomp and ceremony of a state occasion, no other country can touch us.

Around the world, viewers were reminded of just how blessed with breathtaking buildings and parks we are, and just how steeped in tradition. If only a fraction of them are spurred to visit us as a result, the wedding will have repaid its price tag many times over.

Back home, millions took Prime Minister David Cameron's advice to "get on and have fun". Hotels and B&Bs around London had a bumper weekend as hundreds of thousands converged on the capital. Meanwhile, tills rang in pubs and restaurants around the country as we took advantage of the extended weekend and some unseasonably warm weather.

David Cameron must wish royal weddings would come round more often. Perhaps then he'd be better placed to honour the commitment he made last year to turn the country into one of the world's top five destinations. As the coalition government reaches its first birthday, it's hard to point to many positive actions that have supported this rhetoric.

This week, the industry delivers its verdict on the government's first year in power. To borrow the phraseology of the school report, its message is best summarised as "could do better".

In the debit column, there are such impediments as the VAT hike from 15% to 20%, increases to alcohol duty and national insurance, and the removal of £60m of funding with the abolition of the regional development agencies. The credit column looks bare in comparison, though the Red Tape Challenge looks like a good idea in principle.

Next year, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the London Games will have us reaching for the bunting again. After that, the so-called Golden Decade of Sport continues.

But the Prime Minister would be ill-advised to rely on these events to bolster the hospitality industry and market the country overseas for him.

Mark Lewis, Editor, Caterer and Hotelkeeper

E-mail your comments to Mark Lewis here.

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