Over 500 delegates from the United Kingdom tourism industry have gathered at the InterContinental Hotel Park Lane in London to debate how the destination can best participate in an increasingly competitive global travel environment.
Organised by the British Hospitality Association (BHA), the inaugural Hospitality & Tourism Summit called for tourism leaders to reassess their perspective as challenges from developing markets continue to mount.
BHA chief executive, Ufi Ibrahim, pointed to the tremendous assets available to UK tourism – the culture, heritage, and infrastructure on offer – but warned the sector must do more.
“Britain risks being left behind; we must stop talking and begin acting.”
Alluding to the official title of the event - ‘Ready, Set, Go’, in honour of the upcoming London 2012 Olympic Games - Ibrahim added: “We are on the start line, we must be prepared.”
Echoing these sentiments, InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) chief executive Richard Solomons warned competition in global tourism was growing increasingly sophisticated.
Pointing to China, which has recently made tourism development one of its five key pillars of economic development, and the United States, which has been proactive in reducing visa restraints on visitors from developing markets, Solomons said Britain must not rest on its laurels.
“We must utilise the advantages we have, and continue to grow,” he added.
John Penrose, UK minister for tourism and heritage, offered the leading role in meeting these challenges to the private sector.
“There is a limited amount the government can do,” he told delegates, “this has to be a partnership with us playing the supporting role. The private sector must lead.”
Tourism was, however, vital to the growth of the UK, Penrose explained, adding that cutting the administrative burden placed on tourism by government legislation and problems caused by excessive taxation and restrictive visa practices were moving up the official agenda.
“Tourism can play a role in generating growth over the coming years,” Penrose continued.
“This is not an imperative which will go away; it will become ever more important as we move forward.”
His sentiments reflected those of British prime minister David Cameron, who recently championed the tourism industry in a keynote speech.
“Tourism is another industry we must get behind,” Cameron explained,” the rewards for growth here are immense.
“For ever half percent increase in our share of the world tourism market, we can add £2.7 billion to our economy, not to mention 50,000 jobs,” he added.
The inaugural Hospitality & Tourism Summit took place at InterContinental Hotel London on June 1st.
For more information visit the official website.