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Uk Tourism

UK tourism: over-priced, over-rated and at risk

Yusof Sulaiman, Special to eTN  Feb 04, 2009

Chairman of VisitBritain, Christopher Rodrigues, has warned Britain's tourism industry to brace itself for more than 50,000 job losses in the industry forced by "stay away" tourists as a result of the economic downturn.

Britain's hospitality industry is further bracing for a loss of £4 billion (US$5.7 billion) from earnings in hotels and restaurants, according to the venerable worldwide industry magazine HOTELS.

Despite receiving 32 million visitors and bringing in an estimated £114 billion (US$163.8 billion) into the economy last year, Rodrigues says, Britain as a holiday destination still projects the image of an over-priced, over-rated holiday destination. "It's expensive, and the people are as cold as its weather."

In a research undertaken by VisitBritain, the British tourism industry still lacks the "service with a smile" and courtesy "found in the Mediterranean, the US and the Far East."

His remarks came following similar criticisms made last year by Margaret Hodge, former UK tourism minister, who said UK hotels are not only expensive but offer "poor" quality, citing reused soaps, threadbare towels and poor amenities as examples of Britain's "poor service.”

Among other failures of British tourism cited are, dirty lavatories, blood-stained bedsheets and loose fingernail.

"We have had a period in which people could get away with not being of the highest quality," he said, in an interview with the UK Independent newspaper. "We need to improve service levels and attention to details. When you ask people what's memorable, it doesn't have to be five -star."

He points out the sometime hilarious "inn-keeper image" of Britain's Bed and Breakfast (B&B) as portrayed in the quirky episodes of situation comedy "Fawlty Towers" as an example.

"You are not going to get a lot of happy customers if you tell your guests you ‘don't do breakfast before 8 am and don't do it after 8:12 am.’ Poor value for money and poor service costs jobs and will cost more jobs as the recession bites."

His views on the country's tourism industry has been supported by none other than Miles Quest from the British Hospitality Association, which represents 1,500 hotels in the UK. "Hotels do need to provide a welcome and sometimes you don't get it."

To maintain its appeal as a leading tourist destination, the UK government is embarking on a £6 million tourism campaign, highlighting "how cheap" Britain is now for foreign tourists due to the weak British currency against the US dollar, euro and the Japanese yen.

The "value campaign" with the slogan, "There's never been a better time to explore Britain," will highlight going to the UK is now cheaper by 23 percent for those from Europe, 26 percent for those from the US, and up to 40 percent for the Japanese.

"Britain doesn't have to be seen as a five-star destination, but visitors can also leave with lingering memories of high service levels and by attention to details by the British tourism industry.

"Some people are born to be in service industries, and some people are born to be service industries customers." added Rodrigues, who also overlooks the tourism industry of England, Scotland and Wales.

UK tourism: over-priced, over-rated and at risk
Bathroom Door at a Three-Star London Hotel (Photograph by Nelson Alcantara)

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