Tourism chief ousted after clashes with Bottomley

Selling Britain: Record year for visitors, but `driving force' must go
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The Independent Online
PAUL FIELD

Britain's tourism chief, who presided over a record year for visitors in 1995, is to lose her job after frequent clashes with the Secretary of State for National Heritage, Virginia Bottomley.

It was announced yesterday that Adele Biss, 51, chairman of both the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourist Board will not have her three-year contract renewed when it expires at the end of May.

The Labour Party criticised the decision to replace the woman who has overseen a revival of the British tourist industry.

Ms Biss was told by Mrs Bottomley on Monday that she was to be replaced, on the eve of the prestigious English Tourist Board awards in London.

She was known to be keen on carrying on with both jobs. No announcement was made on her successor.

Sources close to Ms Biss suggested she and Mrs Bottomley were frequently at loggerheads and that Mrs Bottomley was now looking for a replacement with views closer to her own.

The Labour MP Tom Pendry, shadow Tourism Minister, criticised Mrs Bottomley, saying: "It is an incredible blunder. Adele has been a driving force for good. Her determination and championing of tourism will be a tough act to follow."

Ms Biss took the job in June 1993 after two decades of relative decline in numbers of visitors, and absolute decline in domestic tourism. Her efforts to stem the pattern of cuts in government funding for the two organisations and to raise their status have been widely praised.

Ms Biss said she was disappointed to have to leave at such a crucial time. "I would have enjoyed a further opportunity to do the things I had set in motion which have been helping to bring about a revival. We have attracted more visitors to this country and convinced more of our own citizens to take their holidays here."

Last year, the UK had a record 23.6m overseas visitors - a 12 per cent increase on the previous record year of 1994. Foreign tourists spent a record pounds 11.73bn in 1995. Three million people work in the tourist industry in the UK, a figure which is expected to rise by 10.2 per cent over the next ten years.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism in the UK is likely to generate about pounds 100bn in 1996 - representing 11.6 per cent of the total gross domestic product.

Within the industry there are fears that the decision to replace Ms Biss suggests Britain may follow the example of the US in dismantling its tourism promotion agency.

But Mrs Bottomley said: "Tourism is our fastest growing industry and will have to be ready to respond to many challenges if the momentum is to be maintained. The new chairman will be able to build on Adele Biss's solid achievements with verve and imagination.''

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