Will tourism ever be given the Government support it needs?

22 April 2010
Will tourism ever be given the Government support it needs?

Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels, says it's time tourism was taken seriously at the top.
Better brains than mine have been devoted to the thankless task of lobbying for more Government support for tourism over many years. To some extent they have succeeded, if you count the sums distributed via regional development agencies along with grants to the recently formed VisitEngland and all the other VisitSomethings. It's never enough, though, and we lack a full-blown overseas campaign to rival those of Ireland, Spain or the USA.

In the past this was attributed to apathy on the part of ministers. Now tourism will probably be just another victim of the cuts in public spending that must happen if this country is ever to get off the critical list.

All this raises the question as to where the money is coming from to pay for the current barrage of Government-sponsored TV and cinema adverts telling us to stop smoking, use a condom, wear a seat belt or go on a diet? Apparently they spent more than £30m in February alone on these "public service" messages.

One can only assume that a more sympathetic ear is to be found in the Departments for Health, Transport and Education when persuasive voices ask for a bit of cash to go into marketing.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport would perhaps prefer not to be seen giving hope to the hoteliers and restaurateurs who between them employ a couple of million voters and still collect vast amounts of tax towards Mr Brown's relentless spending spree.

I imagine it will end in tears but just supposing the Labour Government stays in power there might be a case for emulating this behaviour. Maybe the members of Pride of Britain would be happy if I ran up a massive overdraft on their behalf, cancelled or scaled down our marketing programme and instead placed expensive adverts everywhere, telling them to use fewer towels and be careful near hot saucepans?

There may very well be a need for the kind of warnings the adverts highlight. But can it really make sense to spend so much on these while the source of all public money, namely the profit made from private business, gets treated with such indifference?

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