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Press releases

Leisure industry leaders call on the Government to remove tourism from the DCMS

16th Feb 2008

Seven of the UKs leading leisure company Chief Executives, representing businesses and attractions that include the London Eye, Le Pont De la Tour, Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Travelodge, will today call on the Government to remove the responsibility for tourism from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport DCMS and place it in the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform DBERR.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the business leaders have expressed their belief that tourism has the potential to be one of the strongest performing industries in the UK. The letter also declares that the tourism industry is being held back by a lack of focus in Government, despite over two million people being employed by the sector and over 100bn of revenue being generated.

The problem lies with tourism being in a Government Department that is focussed primarily on culture and the creative industries. This lack of focus manifests itself through the 350 million that is spent annually by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on tourism promotion.

Split between the Regional Development Agencies, tourism boards and local authorities, there is no discernable end goal for the allocated money. With no core message, shared objective or strong central leadership, the different public bodies compete against each other to chase potential tourists, confusing the message for potential domestic and international visitors.

In order for Government to maximise the potential of tourism, the industry leaders have called on the Prime Minister to take the responsibility for the sector from the DCMS and into the DBERR. This would then give tourism the same recognition as industries such as manufacturing, construction and retail, and access to a Department that will fight on its behalf in Whitehall.

Grant Hearn, Chief Executive of Travelodge said

Tourism suffers from playing a lesser role in a Department that concentrates on sports and the arts rather than having a business focus. With 350 million being allocated annually for tourism promotion it is not a lack of money that is the problem, but a lack of focus.

At the moment the DCMS is not getting the basics right. No cohesive strategy, a lack of consistent performance measures across the sector and not even the correct infrastructure to collect revenue data. All of these issues are better dealt with by a department designed to build commerce.

Representing companies and attractions such as Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the London Eye, Haven Holiday Homes, Butlins, Travelodge and top London restaurant, Le Pont De La Tour, the coalition of leisure business leaders believe that the favourable conditions could see tourism become one the UKs strongest performing industries in 2009.

The decline in the value of sterling has led to Britain becoming one of the best value destinations for this year. The UK is now 18 cheaper for visitors from Europe, 40 cheaper for those from Japan and 27 cheaper for those coming from Hong Kong. The collapse in the pound also means that a holiday abroad for a majority of UK residents has been ruled out, with 53 saying they be having a domestic vacation this year.

Crucially, the industry leaders believe that tourism will only reach its maximum potential in 2009 through proactive Government promotional support in the moths ahead.

Richard Carrick, Chief Executive of Hoseasons Holidays, the UKs leading provider of self catering holidays said

There has never been a better opportunity or need in recent history, to get behind UK tourism. The current economic climate adverse exchange rates are likely to mean that 2009 is a boom year for incoming intra UK tourism. Government private sector should combine to exploit this lucky opportunity to the full. With 2012 looming a legacy to be managed achieved, the potential for economic growth employment generation is phenomenal. If we dont get a handle on the way tourism is dealt with by Government quickly, this massive opportunity will be spurned, in the same way that very large sums of money invested in the myriad of tourism agencies across the UK for many years has been squandered.

John Dunford Chief Executive of Bourne Leisure said

There are major opportunities for sustainable growth in UK tourism, many of which involve investing in areas of high unemployment and attracting consumer spend and jobs to those areas. If we want to release those opportunities effectively and rapidly then the importance of tourism to the UK economy needs to be understood and effectively represented at the heart of the UK government

The benefit of a focus on tourism can be seen in Spain, which utilised the Olympic Games as a springboard for the industry. Given the support of a Tourism Ministry, Barcelona became the fastest growing city in the World for tourism post the 1992 Olympics and Spain became the Worlds second most visited tourist destination. Unless tourism is given similar credence in the UK it is doubtful that London 2012 will have anywhere near the same impact.

Notes to Editors

The letter sent to the Prime Minister today was signed by

Amanda Thompson, Managing Director Blackpool Pleasure Beach

John Dunford, Chief Executive of Bourne Leisure

Colin Dawson, Chief Executive of the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions

Des Gunewardena, Chief Executive of D and D London

Richard Carrick, Chief Executive of Hoseasons

Nick Varney, Chief Executive of Merlin Entertainments

Grant Hearn, Chief Executive of Travelodge

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