The Government’s treatment of the tourism industry has been blasted by MPs who criticised the governance and funding of the sector, suggesting it threatened the potential legacy of the 2012 Olympics, to be held in London.
A Culture, Media and Sport Committee report published today said the Government’s decision last October to cut funding to the tourism sector as “baffling” and that its reasons for doing so were “wholly unconvincing”.
The report into the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s treatment of tourism vindicates criticism from industry leaders who have accused the Government of neglecting the industry since it decided to cut funding to UK tourism board VisitBritain by 18pc by 2010-11.
The committee said that while it recognised the financial pressure on the DCMS, it was “extraordinary” to focus all of the “pain” on the tourism industry and said: “The decision to cut resources is simply baffling and should be reconsidered.”
The MPs described the timing of the cuts ahead of the Olympics as “regrettable” but said with greater Government investment it was “not too late to realise fully the tourism benefits of the Games “.
The MPs said they were satisfied the DCMS was the right “home” for tourism but added that “this does not mean we are satisfied with DCMS’s performance on tourism”. They pointed out that Margaret Hodge was the seventh head of the DCMS since 1997 and spoke of a “void in strategic tourism policy”.
“We are concerned by the lack of confidence the industry appears to have in DCMS,” the committee said.
“We are also discouraged that responsibility for tourism has been so frequently transferred between departmental ministers creating an impression that it is seen as an afterthought which has to fit in with their other responsibilities.”
Asked whether the Government was taking tourism seriously, Ros Pritchard, chairman of industry tradebody Tourism Alliance, said: “The answer from this report is clearly ‘no’. ”
Grant Hearn, chief executive of budget hotel group Travelodge, said: “We must seize the moment before the opportunity that the Olympics offer us is squandered through inactivity and poor planning.”
Mr Hearn was one of several industry heavyweights to warn late last year that the UK could forego 110,000 jobs and up to £5bn in revenues if the Olympics opportunity were to be squandered.
That warning preceded data from the Office of National Statistics showing the number of visitors coming to Britain last year grew at its slowest pace since 2001.