East Anglia: VisitEngland chief highlights tourism funding inequality

VISIT ENGLAND gets just a fraction of the public funding available to its counterpart in Scotland, despite its tourism sector being worth several times more to the economy, an industry boss revealed while visiting East Anglia.

Speaking at an international conference in Colchester, James Berresford, chief executive of VisitEngland, claimed tourism was often undervalued, despite its importance to the economy.

He pointed out that while the Government contributed �7million to the organisation he leads, for a country where tourism is worth �97billion, VisitScotland receives �60m of public money to support a tourism sector worth �12bn.

“Tourism is seen as something fluffy and not well defined – it can be a struggle to convince policy makers, politicians and the Treasury about its value because it doesn’t actually make anything,” he said. “However, we do know that it is worth �97bn a year to England and employs over 2m people.”

Mr Berresford was speaking at the mid-term conference of the EU-funded Cruise Gateway North Sea Region project, of which the Haven Gateway Partnership is part and which aims to promote cruise activity in the North Sea Region.

Visit East Anglia, the private sector-led tourism body for the region, agreed that tourism in England remained under-resourced, especially compared with other parts of the UK.

Chief executive Keith Brown said: “Tourism as a proportion of the overall East Anglian economy is larger than the national average and is the reason why the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has it as one of its top three priorities. However, the funding environment continues to be challenging and places the emphasis on commercial businesses to invest more in the promotion of our area.”

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LEP chairman Andy Wood said: “It goes without saying, the tourism sector is tremendously important across Norfolk and Suffolk. It employs around 74,000 people and contributes literally billions to the economy. Locally we recognise this and have earmarked around �100,000 of LEP funding for each county over the next two years. Although a relatively small amount, the aim of the money is to encourage better collaboration and co-operation across the sector.

“I agree with James Berresford and believe tourism to be an unsung hero. This funding should allow it to build on already good examples where successful working between partners has taken place,” added Dr Wood.