British Airways and P&O are among the companies backing a £100 million government fund to promote tourism with the aim of creating 50,000 jobs and bringing in an extra one million overseas visitors to the UK.
Cash and payment in kind has also been pledged by the Radisson Edwardian hotel chain, Lastminute.com and ferry operator DFDS to help match the £50 million of public money already committed by VisitBritain. The national tourism agency had its funding cut by 34% to £20 million in the summer and is attempting to develop stronger partnerships with private sector companies to cover the shortfall.
Prime Minister David Cameron told a reception for the tourism industry hosted in Downing Street yesterday that the eyes of the world would be focused on the UK as never before over the next two years.
“A Royal Wedding, Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee and, of course, the London Olympic and Paralympic Games offer us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not just for national pride and celebration, but also to promote this country as the perfect tourist destination, helping to create 50,000 jobs and bring £2 billion more visitor spending to the UK,” he said.
VisitBritain will roll out its four-year marketing strategy in May and hopes to promote the UK to emerging markets such as India, China and Latin America in particular, while boosting visitor numbers from traditional markets such as the US and continental Europe.
Around 30 million overseas visitors came to the UK in 2009, spending £16.6 billion, but 2010 is expected to show flat growth, after a hoped-for bounce from US tourists failed to materialise. VisitBritain expects growth to hit no more than 1% in the year ahead.
Cameron said last August that the tourism sector had been viewed as a ‘second class’ citizen for too long and was essential to rebuilding the UK economy, adding that it was the country’s third biggest export earner after chemicals and financial services.