Tourist board collapses with pounds 300,000 debts

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The Independent Online
A PROLONGED financial crisis has driven one of England's 12 regional tourist boards to cease trading with debts of more than pounds 300,000. The collapse of the Thames and Chilterns Tourist Board, which covers five counties and the towns of Oxford and Windsor, is bound to add to concern at the depth of the recession in tourism. It is the first regional board to fail.

Liquidators were appointed yesterday after the board's executive committee heard that accountants called in to research the organisation's finances found it insolvent. It is understood that this was due partly to a recent downward revaluation of the board's headquarters building in Witney, Oxfordshire. The organisation's chief executive, John Bethell, has resigned, and its chief accountant, Ian Broadbridge, has been suspended. Twenty-eight full-time and 14 part-time members of staff have lost their jobs.

Thames and Chilterns was recently rated eighth richest of the regional boards in terms of income. The board is a private company which promotes tourism in Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, and Bedfordshire on behalf of 800 sponsors, who include local authorities and hotel operators. A spokeswoman for the English Tourist Board, which has temporarily taken over the administration of the regional board, said that the collapse would not affect the summer season but that a meeting would be called in September to discuss plans for next year. 'We do not intend to leave the area as a black hole. One possibility is that the region is taken over by a neighbouring board, a second is that another private company starts up.'