UK trade bodies have accused the government of “squandering” opportunities to grow the economy created by London 2012 by downgrading the role of tourism minister.
UKinbound and the Tourism Society led the attack on prime minister David Cameron’s government reshuffle which led to the departure of tourism minister John Penrose.
The tourism brief has now been absorbed by sports minister and Olympic legacy minister Hugh Robertson in a downsized Department for Culture Media and Sport.
With the first ever UK tourism strategy published in March, the industry is calling for the reinstatement of the minister’s role in order to see its successful implementation.
Ukinbound said ministerial responsibility for tourism – which contributes more than £100 billion a year to the economy - to be added to Robertson’s remit was “highly questionable”.
Chief executive Mary Rance said: “We are disappointed by the government’s lack of commitment to tourism and they are again overlooking the contribution that tourism makes to UK Plc.
“With the income generated each year by tourism estimated to be worth £115 billion to the economy and with the prime minister himself identifying the industry as ‘fundamental’ to rebuilding Britain’s economy, the decision to add tourism, as an afterthought, to Hugh Robertson’s department, and with the newly appointed secretary of state Maria Miller MP splitting her time between DCMS and the Department for Equality, seems to directly contradict their pledge to support the industry.
“We can only urge the government to ensure that their promises of support to the tourism industry do not get lost in the reshuffle and hope that Mr Robertson and Ms Miller will assist us in gaining greater recognition for tourism as a key export industry for the UK, raising its position of value and respect within Westminster.”
Tourism Society chairman David Curtis-Brignell described the downgrading as “appalling” after Cameron had repeatedly voiced is support for UK tourism.
He said: “We were thrilled when David Cameron made his ‘importance of tourism’ speech in the first 100 days of his premiership, but was the prime minister's support for tourism just lip service?”
Ken Robinson, chairman of the Society’s think tank, added: “With no indication of a new minister being appointed, this is a great mistake that will have a negative impact on government actions needed to realise the growth potential of British tourism, that our economy so badly needs.”
British Hospitality Association deputy chief executive Martin Couchman said: “The BHA is pleased that tourism is now included in the brief of Hugh Robertson, now minister for sport, Olympic legacy and tourism, and we look forward to picking up with him on all the issues that we have been discussing with DCMS.”
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