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'Policy of neglect' is hurting tourism

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 07, 2012

Anthony Chapman is the general manager of the award-winning Old Quay House at Fowey

Anthony Chapman is the general manager of the award-winning Old Quay House at Fowey

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The Government's continuing "deplorable policy of neglect" is costing tourist dependent areas like the Westcountry millions of pounds, the editors of The Good Hotel Guide said today.

Prime Minister David Cameron had promised on his election that tourism – worth more than £2 billion annually to Devon and Cornwall – would be a priority, the editors said.

But joint editors Adam Raphael and Desmond Balmer said that this year the tourism budget was cut by a fifth, "wasting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity priced by the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympic Games".

Launching the 2013 edition of the guide, they said neglect of the hospitality industry was a major reason why Britain's share of the world holiday market had declined by 40 per cent in the last 30 years.

Failure to invest in tourism, the country's sixth largest industry, was costing the country "billions of pounds and hundreds of thousands of jobs".

"It is deplorable that this policy of neglect is being continued by the coalition," they added. "We are missing a golden opportunity to develop an industry which has the potential to grow by 60 per cent, contributing nearly £200 billion to the economy by 2020.

"At present, even the impoverished Caribbean island of Aruba spends more to attract American tourists than does Britain."

Concerns about the Government's attitude towards the value of tourism were raised last month when Somerset MP John Penrose, who had been Tourism Minister, was sacked after as part of a wide-ranging ministerial shake-up.

While the Government insisted tourism had not been "downgraded", it was accused of "awesome incompetence" for scrapping a minister dedicated to the industry following the Olympics.

Sports Minister Hugh Robertson has assumed the tourism portfolio on top of his existing responsibilities.

During a Commons debate last month, Mr Robertson said: "We had a thoroughly excellent minister, who covered tourism, heritage and gambling.

"We now have a minister who covers sport, tourism and gambling. I cannot remotely see that that is in any way a downgrade. There were three responsibilities before and there are three now – the maths are very simple."

Alistair Handyside, spokesman for the South West Tourism Alliance, said it was "too early" to say if the Ministerial change would have any impact.

But he said: "John Penrose was genuinely a champion of getting rid of red tape and 50-100 bits of regulation that affect tourism business.

"The big question now is what happens to that? Instead of financial support we were offered deregulation and what we have now is neither."

The row blew up as one local business celebrated being named as one of just ten award winner in this year's guide.

The Old Quay House, a boutique hotel of 11 rooms on Fowey's harbour front, was named as "Cornish Hotel of the Year" in the awards. Joint editor Desmond Balmer said: "Jane and Roy Carson have turned an old seamen's mission into a chic and comfortable hotel.

"Guide inspectors found it 'an absolute delight from start to finish. Simply spot-on'."

"We are absolutely thrilled to have received this award," Jane said. "It has been 10 years since we came to the Old Quay House and we are delighted that all the hard work has paid off. To be named as Cornish Hotel of the Year is really unexpected and a testament to the efforts of our excellent team."

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