The Government has squandered millions of pounds that should have been spent on tourism and promoting the country, according to trade body UKinbound chief executive Stephen Dowd.
Dowd has called for re-gional development agencies (RDAs) to be more “transparent” about the way they spend the money allocated to them by the Government for tourism initiatives.
There are nine RDAs in England reporting to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) with a remit that includes tourism and the promotion of their region, but they have no obligation to use their funding directly for this purpose.
Dowd says: “Since 2001 the Government has wasted millions of tourism pounds through the money it hands out to RDAs because the agencies don’t have a compulsion to use that money on tourism. In fact, we don’t know exactly what they use it for.”
The Government says it has invested £350m into the tourism industry in the last financial year and nearly £200m of that was directed to the RDAs. Industry observers question the £350m figure, saying the actual amount spent on tourism is far less.
Dowd’s comments follow culture secretary James Purnell’s (pictured) demand that the tourism industry review the way it promotes the UK last week as reported on marketingweek.co.uk. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) also announced cuts for the tourism sector from £55.1m this financial year to £45.8m in 2010/11.
Dowd adds: “We want a system where the RDAs are accountable for what they spend. We want to find out what their marketing budget is for destination tourism.”
He says the tourism industry is good at marketing the products it offers but needs government help to market the country as a destination