Ministers refuse more cash to promote tourism

Click to follow

The quango in charge of tourism in England has run out of money to promote the industry after foot and mouth disease. Businesses and hoteliers are relying on brisk, end-of-season trade to compensate for a summer that for many has been ruined by the effects of the disease.

With the approach of the August Bank Holiday, traditionally the busiest weekend, the English Tourism Council (ETC) admits it no longer has funds to promote holidays to the domestic market.

Ministers are refusing more money even though, with foreign tourists staying away, the industry depends even more on home visitors. The lack of government funds for tourism contrasts starkly with the £1bn compensation to the farming industry since the disease came to light six months ago.

"We have run out of money to market domestic tourism," an ETC spokesman said.

Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said: "I find it very frustrating. The Government doesn't understand tourism's contribution to the economy compared to agriculture."

Experts estimate the foot and mouth outbreak will cost the tourism industry £5bn this year. By comparison, the meat export business, protected by the mass slaughter policy, is worth £500m.

The ETC was given £3.8m in April to kickstart domestic tourism. Ministers refused a bid for a further £30m. By contrast, the Scottish Tourist Boardreceived an initial £5m and then a further £6.9m from the Scottish Executive.

Accounts seen by The Independent on Sunday highlight the low level of the grants on offer to shops, hotels and other rural businesses in some of the areas worst affected by foot and mouth.

The Rural Taskforce, a quango chaired by Alun Michael, the rural affairs minister, handed £40m to the regional development agencies (RDA) for emergency funds for rural firms. But accounts given it reveal wide disparity in payments. Rural firms in Devon, for instance, each received from the South West RDA just £23,000 in aid after foot and mouth, in the six months to the start of August. It said that since the start of the month it had distributed a further £1m, but £10m is still available.