VisitBritain faces funding cuts ahead of Olympics

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The UK's main tourist body VisitBritain is to have its funding slashed, less than two years before London hosts the 2012 Olympics, it was announced today.

VisitBritain said it would "review its operations further to keep its Olympic tourism strategy on course" following what amounts to a 34% reduction in Government funding.

The organisation said the Culture Department had set it a new, lower funding level.

In cash terms it will be £26.5 million in 2011/12 reducing to £21.2 million in 2014/15. This compares with the current year's grant in aid of £28.8 million.

In real terms, after accounting for inflation, it amounts to a 34% reduction, said VisitBritain.

VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues said: "This Government understands the value VisitBritain brings to Britain's tourism industry, but this is tough love.

"VisitBritain will respond to the settlement by further cutting overheads and reducing its physical network overseas to retain as much money as possible for our global marketing effort."

He went on: "It is less than two years until the eyes of the world will be on the opening ceremony of the London Games. We have a great chance to use the unprecedented level of media exposure that the event will bring to boost Britain's image abroad.

"We are determined to do our utmost, despite this reduced funding, to grasp that opportunity and are already in discussions with ministers about how to create the strongest possible campaign around the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to promote this country as a tourism destination working in partnership with the private sector."

VisitBritain chief executive Sandie Dawe added: "While this is a significant reduction in our funding, it does not change our objectives, which remain sound.

"These are: inspiring the world to visit and explore Britain; delivering a global network capable of promoting Britain; championing the tourism industry and creating a sustained increase in UK tourism as a result of the Olympics.

"Our aim now is to tighten our focus clearly on to the UK's key markets: ones that are already delivering for us and those emerging markets that are key to our future.

"We will use new technology including our award-winning suite of multi-lingual websites, social media platforms and international public relations expertise to maintain our global footprint, as well as a staffed presence in key locations."