Anger at pre-2012 tourism budget


The British government has been criticised for slashing investment in promoting Britain abroad in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics.

VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, has had its latest budget cut by a fifth.

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MP John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, described the decision as “quite extraordinary”.

The government said the cut in funding was necessitated by “tight” finances.

Mr Whittingdale said: “The government, just at this moment when we are in the run-up to the Games, is actually cutting the budget for the organisation that promotes Britain abroad – that’s Visit Britain – by 20%.

“We find that quite extraordinary.

“The government has made a lot about the benefits which will flow from the Olympics, not just to east London but right across the country, and one of the principal benefits should be to benefit tourism, with people seeing around the world what Britain has to offer,” he added.

Michael Payne, former marketing director of the International Olympic Committee, said: “All too often you see tourism bodies of governments wake up too late and we miss the opportunity.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: “By securing the 2012 Games for Britain we have provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our tourism industry.

“It is now up to the industry to make the most of the Games – and there has been no change in the Government’s high level of commitment to helping it do that.

“But public finances are tight, and we have to make every pound of our investment go further.”

The funding for VisitBritain has fallen from the current £49.6m to £47.6m in 2008/09 and will fall further to £40.6m in 2010/11.

But Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of VisitBritain, said the government had “committed to reviewing the resources available for VisitBritain to work with the private sector as we get closer to the 2012 Games.”