Tourist industry wants pounds 8m cuts reversed: Record number of hotels in receivership as grant to attract visitors is reduced. Will Bennett reports

THE STRUGGLING domestic tourist industry will face worsening problems unless the Government reverses pounds 8m of spending cuts over two years, the English Tourist Board predicted yesterday.

A growing number of Britons are going abroad for their holidays and the recession has led to an all-time high in the number of hotels in receivership, according to the board's annual report.

England's seaside resorts have been particularly hard-hit, with many suffering from above average unemployment.

Last November the Department of National Heritage revealed a 10 per cent cut in the ETB's grant for 1993-94, which led to 42 of its 139 staff being made redundant. By 1995/96 funding will have dropped from pounds 16.2m last year to pounds 9m.

The ETB, which promotes England as a tourist destination and encourages the provision of facilities, says that it needs to keep the grant at this year's level of pounds 13.9m to do its job effectively. Adele Biss, the board's chairman, said yesterday: 'I fully understand that there is extreme pressure on public funds and this means that the board is having to work very hard to convince the Government of the strength of its case.'

A recent report by the consultants Coopers & Lybrand argued that there was a clear need for government involvement in tourism and warned that if funds were cut the ETB would not be able to do its job properly.

Figures published by the ETB yesterday show that England's share of UK residents' spending on tourism fell from 35 per cent in 1989 to 32 per cent last year, while expenditure on foreign holidays increased from 52 per cent to 57 per cent. In the same period the proportion of foreign holiday trips taken rose from 16 per cent to 20 per cent.

John East, ETB chief executive, said there was 'a deficit in the tourism balance of payments account' and more overseas visitors and more Britons would have to be encouraged to spend holidays in England.

He added: 'During this lengthy recession, reduced savings and fear of redundancy among our potential customers led to a fall in demand. Tourism businesses suffered accordingly.'

On a more optimistic note, the report said that the number of foreign visitors to England rose by an estimated 8 per cent last year.

----------------------------------------------------------------- UK TOURISTS IN ENGLAND AND UK (1992) ----------------------------------------------------------------- MILLIONS ALL TOURISM Destination Trips Nights pounds spend Cumbria 2.6 11.2 330 Northumbria 3.2 11.6 275 North West 7.4 25.4 715 Yorkshire & Humberside 7.5 26.8 680 Heart of England 7.4 23.5 590 East Midlands 5.8 20.2 485 East Anglia 9.1 34.8 880 London 7.0 19.4 640 West Country 13.1 70.9 1,915 Southern 9.5 35.6 930 South East 6.9 27.0 645 ENGLAND 77.2 306.4 8,080 UK 95.6 399.7 10,665 ----------------------------------------------------------------- United Kingdom Tourism Survey -----------------------------------------------------------------