THE TOURIST industry in Britain is in a mess, Stephen Dorrell, the new Secretary of State for National Heritage, was told by the Confederation of British Industry and travel chiefs yesterday.
Industry executives told him that tourism was being affected because alcohol was too heavily taxed, waiters often did not speak English and international marketing was just not good enough.
And the splitting of tourist boards between England, Scotland and Wales meant that foreign operators often did not know who to come to for advice.
Mr Dorrell was also told that the Royal Family could do more to boost trade, because foreign royalty seemed more willing to be seen at trade conferences and Britain was losing out.
After being pressed on such issues at a conference in London, Mr Dorrell said: 'I have come to my new responsibilities without any doubts whatsoever of the importance of tourism and the importance of national heritage.'
It was a key economic factor, creating 1.5 million jobs and rising rapidly, he said. But he added: 'You will find me a difficult person to convince that success is measured in terms of public expenditure.
'I want some time to work out how I want to handle my response, but I am committed to develop tourism.
'I want to know from the industry what are the constraints, where does the shoe pinch, and how can I make it better for you and your customers so that the economy can benefit.
'We have a world-beating tradition of theatre, dance and music. It is a living heritage and needs to be linked in to the tourist industry.'