Prime minister David Cameron has sought to refocus the British tourism offering, arguing the country should concentrate on selling its cultural heritage.
Addressing an industry audience in Hyde Park this morning, Mr Cameron said the country should focus on national parks, seaside towns, heritage sites such as castles and country houses, museums, galleries, and theatres.
Commentators have seen speech as a decisive attempt to break with the Cool Britannia branding employed by former Labour prime minister Tony Blair.
“I want to see us in the top five destinations in the world. But that means being much more competitive internationally,” said Mr Cameron.
“Take Chinese tourists, for example. We are their 22nd most popular destination. But Germany is forecast to break into their top ten. Why can’t we?”
The United Nations ranks the UK as the sixth-most visited destination in the world, behind France, the US, Spain, China and Italy.
Mr Cameron outlined plans to reduce the waiting time for Chinese and Indian visitors to acquire visas.
However, the coalition government has been attacked for rejecting plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport, while also overseeing increases in Air Passenger Duty.
Mr Cameron told the audience of industry experts: “We should be proud of our potential because we are proud of our country and what it has to offer.
“I love going on holiday in Britain.”
Last year Mr Cameron publicly visited Cornwall before heading for a private yacht on the south coast of Turkey.
The speech has been warmly welcomed by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
“We are delighted that in challenging economic time the UK government has recognised the importance of travel and tourism, an industry that currently generates 3.1 million in the UK,” said WTTC president Jean-Claude Baumgarten.
“This announcement comes at the right moment for the UK to take full advantage of its Olympic opportunity in 2012.”
However, the speech has been attacked by political opponents.
Shadow culture secretary Ben Bradshaw said: “Before making a speech on heritage, David Cameron should have read up on some recent history.
“Labour’s introduction of free admission to national museums and galleries has helped to attract people from around the world, while opening up access to our rich cultural heritage for everyone in Britain. We created new national parks to protect some of our greatest natural heritage and opened up our coastal paths.”
Labour removed admission fees to UK museums and galleries in 2001, with many reporting a sharp increase in visitor numbers.
Last month a report from VisitBritain found tourism’s contribution to the economy could grow by more than 60 per cent to £188 billion by 2020.
The number of jobs directly and indirectly linked to tourism could rise by 264,000 to 2.89 million as a result, argued the report.
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