VisitBritain calls for extra £15m to attract tourists

National tourist board VisitBritian is demanding more funds from the Government to promote Britain in fast-growing markets such as India, China and Eastern Europe and to maintain core markets such as Western Europe and particularly the US.

The tourist board says it would be “satisfied” with a &£15m increase on its current &£35m budget, with extra money ringfenced to promote the 2012 Olympics.

It claims the Government has “criminally” underfunded it for a decade, which has led to dramatic falls in visitor numbers. It claims it can justify a case for a funding increase of over 40% in the current government efficiency review.

VisitBritain’s director of strategy and communications Sandie Dawe says: “Tourism in the UK is worth &£74bn a year to the economy and we have proved we are a high-delivering agency with a 47-to-1 return on investment. Yet our funding has remained static for a decade which, with inflation, amounts to an 18% cut.” According to its figures, visitors to the UK from the US have dropped 13% since 2000.

David Curtis-Brignell, chairman of the Tourism Society, which represents 1,200 professional members across the UK tourism sector, agrees and says tourism has suffered “years of underinvestment”.

Tourism decline extends to the capital with Neil Parry, marketing manager of the London Aquarium, claiming there are often 40% fewer visitors to London than there were before last July’s bombings.

The review will result in the Government setting its agency budgets next year for the financial year beginning April 2007. A spokeswoman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport says: “Tourism is well funded, receiving more than &£300m a year at national, regional and local levels across the UK.”

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