Cable and Johnson lobbied to save capital’s tourism board

Business Secretary Vince Cable and Boris
Johnson have both been lobbied to step in and save London’s key economic
development bodies, including Visit London.

The tourism board, as well as Study London
and Think London, appears to have been left without funding, following the
decision to abolish the regional development associations
(RDA).

Two dozen business and university leaders
have signed a letter to Vince Cable saying it would be “unthinkable” to leave
the capital without cash for inward investment, tourism or attracting overseas
students.

Visit London, which receives £11.7m from the RDA,
would face closure unless funding is found. The capital would be out on a limb
both in the UK and international as a major city
without a dedicated promotional body.

Hotels, airlines, law firms, academics and
property companies all signed the letter expressing their concern and demanding
“reassurances that the Government, collectively, will rectify this urgently”.
Chief executive of London First, Baroness Valentine, was behind the letter which
read, in part: “Now, more than ever, the Government needs to ensure adequate
funding is in place to support London’s economic
development.”

“At this critical time of fragile economic
recovery, and with the Olympic Games less than two years away, it is vital to
the London and UK
economy that momentum is not lost,” the letter read in parts.

The Treasury’s decision to pull the plug on
the £480m London
Development Agency has forced Mayor Boris Johnson to join in the
lobbying.

Visit London,
meanwhile, is reportedly looking for a plan B and it is thought the Mayor may
submit a bid for Local Enterprise Partnership status for London.

Visit London
tells conference-news: “It is
essential that London has a dedicated tourism organisation in
the lead up to the most important event of our generation – the 2012 Olympic and
Paralympic Games”. 

Visit London CEO Sally Chatterjee said: “We
are continuing to support the GLA regarding their discussions with Government
about funding options. We continue to share a common belief that international
promotion of the capital must remain to ensure London’s future as a world class destination in
the lead to 2012. Visit London is a private organisation limited by
guarantee. We are reviewing all funding options, but currently have no plans to
wind up the company.”

Director of Business Tourism Tracy Halliwell
added: “We appreciate all the support that the business tourism industry has
shown so far. Visit London is still continuing to support the GLA
regarding their discussions with Government. In the meantime we’re still 100 per
cent committed to supporting our partners and in delivering value to London’s economy through the promotion of London.”

With no convention bureau service the capital
would slide further down the ICCA rankings from its current 16th place,
apparently already a source of embarrassment for the Mayor. Boris Johnson
reportedly once quipped: ‘London does not do
16th’.

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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