Is Britain backing tourism?
Can you name a British industry that has grown through the current global recession, increased its revenues by 12.6% in a downturn and, most importantly, created new jobs?
Not many people can, because the industry in question is undervalued by the Government, despite it being the UK's fifth-largest revenue-generating sector.
British tourism is a resilient industry. New research commissioned by Travelodge has revealed that the sector outperformed the general economy and led the way in terms of employment numbers during one of the longest recessions since the Second World War.
But more must be done to support the industry and boost visitor numbers from other countries - particularly the emerging markets. Between 2007 and 2011, global tourism grew by 23.4% but the UK failed to benefit from this boom. During this period, two million fewer overseas visitors came to the UK, a drop of more than 6%.
Every wealthy Indian or Chinese tourist lost to America, France and Germany is a lost opportunity to boost our economy and â¨create much-needed jobs in the UK. It's that simple.
I would urge the Government to take immediate action and bring to life the prime minister's words that "Britain is open for business".
To help achieve this, Travelodge has published a 10-point plan for tourism that we believe will drive the UK's economic recovery and work towards achieving the Government's own target of four million new overseas visitors by 2014 .
First, the Government must co-ordinate a cross-departmental plan and create one cohesive tourism strategy.
Second, tourism must be given the status it deserves. The Government needs to move the industry from the Department of Culture Media & Sports to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
We are very supportive of the Government's ambitious programme to expand apprenticeships and our 10-point plan builds on this and includes proposals to ring-fence funding for apprenticeships in hospitality.
As well as proactively promoting the tourism industry, we need the Government to take bigger steps to reduce the bureaucracy behind visa application processing for Chinese tourists that want to visit the UK.
Finally, we must be more competitive, which means credible tax breaks for the sector. The current rate of 20% VAT on tourism should be cut to 5% in line with rival destinations in Europe.
For more details on Travelodge's 10-point plan, go to: tinyurl.com/travelodge-cable