A matter of hours after VisitBritain confirmed it has lost a massive 34 per cent chunk of its budget, its sister agency VisitEngland, which also dodged a quango coffin last week, issued its own statement to similar effect.
The swingeing cuts in budget are on a scale far higher than the average level of government departmental budget cuts announced (around 19%), although the Armed Forces, Education and Health, all did far better in Chancellor Osborne’s £35bn package of public spending cuts. They all have powerful voices in their lobby of course.
The situation has worsened for our sector, being announced on the eve of the big evening at Parliament – the Business Visits and Events Partnership-sponsored meeting of meetings industry leaders with over 50 MPs at the House of Commons to press the case of the importance of our sector. The size of the cut, passed on through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (which lost £1.1bn of its budget) would seem to make a mockery of some of our industry leaders’ assertions that the new coalition government ‘gets’ the events industry and business tourism.
VisitEngland Chief Executive James Berresford, having just lost £9.2m of his budget for this year, put on a brave face and, with apologies to another famous phrase, when asked to cut, appears to be saying ‘how deep?’.
“We are already well prepared to adapt our business model to this cut and will ensure VisitEngland continues to meet our fundamental goal to grow the value of domestic tourism. England’s Strategic Framework for Tourism, launched earlier this year, continues as our blueprint for growth,” Berresford said.
That’s alright then. Can VisitEngland, I wonder, afford to be so sanguine about stepping into the breach to set up a transition tourism team now that the Regional Development Agencies’ funding for tourism is also ceasing?
The press release from VisitEngland notes England represents 84 per cent of the total UK tourism value of £97 billion, and supports in excess of two million jobs. One wonders how many of those jobs will be intact in 2015, if our industry leaders cannot make our industry’s voice heard properly in the corridors of power.
VisitBritain’s Chairman Christopher Rodrigues was a tad braver, saying in his statement on the cut: “This Government understands the value VisitBritain brings to Britain’s tourism industry, but this is tough love. Visit Britain will respond to the settlement by further cutting overheads and reducing its physical network overseas.” Rodrigues also said his agency would have to review its work on the 2012 Olympics in view of the cut in budget.