February 11, 2011
BHA chief executive Ufi Ibrahim has said that as a result of its cut in funding VisitBritain was right to focus on certain key overseas markets, but that the application of VisitEngland is the key to future domestic success.
“Unfortunate though it is, the need for VisitBritain to re-focus became imperative once the government’s 34 per cent cut in funding was announced,” she said. “It is far better to concentrate on key markets than to spread resources too thinly over a wider area and thus be far less effective.”
However, the BHA was concerned that the business market – worth over £3.6bn in overseas revenue – was not one of the priority markets.
“The corporate market is significant and many hotels in major city centres rely on overseas business travel and corporate meetings and events. It’s unfortunate that resources don’t spread to this important sector.”
Ms Ibrahim said that the cut in VisitBritain funding only highlighted the importance of the submission by VisitEngland for funding from the Regional Growth Fund.
“The VisitEngland application is certainly the key to the future success of English domestic tourism. With a soundly financed, part match-funded programme, VisitEngland can really develop a three-year marketing campaign with local partners to encourage more people to holiday at home. If the bid isn’t successful, the opportunity to boost domestic tourism will be lost.”
She said that Local Enterprise Partnerships played a vital part in this.
“Without their support, tourism in the regions will suffer. LEPs must recognise that tourism is the main economic driver of many parts of the country and it needs to be supported and encouraged. But what funds do they have? Who is influencing them? The local hospitality industry must get behind its LEP to ensure that tourism is not forgotten.”
Ms Ibrahim reiterated the competitive challenge faced by UK tourism.
“We have the second highest rate of VAT in Europe when our key competitors have specially reduced rate of VAT for hotel accommodation and meals. Our visa costs are high and completing the visa forms is so complicated that over 55,000 Chinese and Indian visitors were discouraged from entering the UK in 2009 because of this.
“We must remove barriers to tourism growth not erect them.”