The World Travel & Tourism Council is applauding a pledge by British Prime Minister David Cameron to develop a reinvigorated tourism strategy by year’s end.
Noting that the U.K. fell from sixth to 11th place in the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Ratings between 2008 and 2009, Cameron linked tourism with the U.K.’s economic recovery and stressed the importance of taking advantage of the economic opportunity presented by the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
"For too long tourism has been looked down on as a second-class service sector," Cameron said. "Tourism is a fiercely competitive market [that is] … fundamental to the rebuilding and rebalancing of our economy."
Of particular importance, according to WTTC President Jean-Claude Baumgarten, is Cameron’s appointment of a minister for tourism and heritage to take over the new tourism initiative. Previously tourism was overseen by a junior minister in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Baumgarten noted that the appointment is an about-face from earlier reports that the new coalition government would cut funding to that department.
Other issues the WTTC hopes will be incorporated into the new tourism strategy include the creation of a coordinated air traffic control system for all of Europe that would avoid what Baumgarten referred to as the mishandling of the ash cloud crisis.
"While public safety must be paramount, decisions must not be made lightly,” Baumgarten said, noting that the crisis brought European airspace to a standstill, affecting more than 7 million passengers and costing the industry almost $8 billion a week in lost revenue.
"A coordinated approach to assessing the situation and implementing recovery measures is crucial for the sake of travelers and [the industry]," he said.
He said the U.K. must also examine how its value-added taxes on tourism, which are more than double the European average, are affecting its competitiveness.