April 15, 2011
The Regional Growth Fund’s failure to support tourism in England in its first round of grants worth £440m has been described as a lost opportunity to meet the industry’s aim to create 236,000 new jobs.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive, of the British Hospitality Association, said the decision to refuse VisitEngland’s £29m bid for domestic tourism promotion was very disappointing.
“It ignores the prime minister’s promise in the government’s own Tourism Strategy to take tourism to a ‘whole new level’ and ‘harness the huge potential that this area holds for our economy’.
“This decision takes tourism nowhere.”
The association has written to the prime minister, and the tourism minister, John Penrose MP, to protest at the lack of interest in tourism by the Regional Growth Fund.
Ms Ibrahim said that the Prime Minister had described tourism as one of five ‘big-ticket’ industries of the future and one that the government ‘should get behind’.
“This view was echoed by the Chancellor in a recent speech in which he highlighted tourism as a key industry in the government’s Plan for Growth. Research by the BHA shows that hospitality has the potential to create 236,000 new and additional jobs by 2015. Further BHA research to be released shortly will indicate the major contribution that hospitality makes to the economy and job creation in every local authority area.”
She said that tourism could deliver growth, create jobs, support regeneration, and has a proven track record in skills – delivering excellent vocational training.
“However, without adequate support from available government funds the job-creating potential is at risk,
“This is made worse by the removal of £60m of annual tourism funding which has been lost with the abolition of Regional Development Agencies – and which is further compounded by local authority cuts and big reductions in the VisitBritain and VisitEngland budgets.
“The decision is a totally lost opportunity to create more employment throughout the country.”
Ms Ibrahim welcomed the establishment of the Local Enterprise Partnership Network, under the auspices of the British Chambers of Commerce. She said BHA was committed to playing a full role in this business-led network to deliver local growth that rebalances the local economy.
But further clarity was still needed from LEPs.
“How will they engage with the tourism industry?” she asked. “There appears to be a lack of tourism representation on many of the LEP Boards”
“She added that BHA was hopeful that VisitEngland’s bid would be successful in the next round of RGF funding – “but all the time, we are losing time and momentum,” she said.