The head of Britain’s third-largest hotel chain has written to Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, urging him to do more to unlock the potential of Britain’s tourism industry.
Grant Hearn, chief executive of Travelodge, demanded that tourism be moved higher up the agenda on the back of a report it commissioned outlining the industry’s performance during the recent recession.
Figures from the report had suggested that tourism was one of the few areas of growth, increasing its revenues by 12.6 per cent to more than £40 billion, representing 10 per cent of GDP.
According to the report, tourism grew by 23.4 per cent globally between 2007 and 2011, but during the same period, two million fewer visitors came to the UK. The Government’s target of 4 million new overseas visitors by 2014 therefore looks unlikely.
As part of a “ten-point plan”, Mr Hearn asked to increase the UK’s competitiveness with credible tax breaks and a less bureaucratic visa application process, and for a dedicated taskforce to be set up with the aim of delivering growth within tourism.
“Our report confirms UK tourism has successfully weathered the recession to date and outperformed other key sectors,” he said. “However, as one of Britain’s biggest business sectors it deserves the chance to unlock its true potential.
“We need to be treated as a serious business sector. Our ten-point plan is about awakening the potential of the sector and positioning tourism as a key element of a successful and sustainable economic recovery.”
Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association, said thousands of hotels, tourist attractions and restaurants across the UK depended on the Government to back them.
“Our industry has the potential to create over 200,000 jobs in the UK by 2015. There are measures the Government could take which would create more employment and boost the economy – such as cutting tourism VAT to 5 per cent and the ongoing initiative to improve the tourist visa process.”