• Tourism still tail-end Charlie

The £2.5bn about to be handed to the UK car industry- there are similar and in many cases more generous packages for auto manufacturers around the world – shows once again that governments listen to the loudest voices rather than acting in the best interests of their countries.

And it shows that travel and tourism remains at the back of the queue when it comes to influencing key policy decisions. For the UK there is the added insult of budgets being slashed for tourism promotion at the same time.

While the UK hand out to car makers is not as extensive as for many European countries, notably Germany and France, it is all the more surprising as there are no British-owned car makers of scale.

But it is astonishing that manufacturing is once again taking precedence over the more important – in both wealth creation and jobs terms – services sector.

Using figures from government funded agency National Statistics makes this clear. At September 2008, there were 3.1 million people employed in manufacturing industries but 7.0 million employed in distribution, hotels and restaurants (a classification that includes retail).

Just over 80% of all jobs in the UK are services related. And given that services now account for 75% of the UK's wealth creation, a bias towards manufacturing seems very odd indeed.

The UK economy has shifted more towards services than any other European economy. As Otus & Co have written in the pages of the print version of Hotel Analyst (see Volume One, Issue 7), the UK is the only "experience economy" in Europe. Its Government should be at the forefront of promoting services friendly policies.

Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, inadvertently highlighted the challenge facing tourism lobbyists with the line this week during the announcement of Government aid to car makers: "We need less financial engineering and more real engineering." Somehow, "real services" just does not have the same ring to it.

The current situation is a louder echo of the 2001 foot and mouth debacle in the UK when agriculture received substantial government handouts but tourism, which employs twice as many people in the rural locations impacted, received nothing.

The farmers were able to present a strong case but the disparate tourism industry failed to win over public sympathy.

Not that there should be a clamour for state subsidy from travel and tourism – it does not need it – but it should be given a fair share of promotional budgets. And this is particularly the case given the attraction of visiting the UK thanks to the massive devaluation of the pound.

And it is here that there is a real kick in the teeth for the UK hospitality industry. On top of cutting the already meagre tourism budget by 18% it was revealed yesterday that there is to be no one-off boost to expenditure to exploit the 2012 Olympics being held in London.

Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association and chairman of the Tourism Alliance, said it highlighted the lack of understanding by Government of tourism's potential to create wealth and jobs.

The Tourism Alliance, a lobby group which was established by the Government and represents about 200,000 tourism businesses, reckons tourism is the sixth largest industry in Britain, generating £85bn a year and directly employing 2.2 million people. Tourism generates £15bn per year making it the third biggest export earner.

There is no doubt that one reason why tourism does not enjoy a fair share of Government largesse is its fragmented nature. This is due to the owner-operator nature of most of the businesses and the diverse nature of these businesses, the latter point is reflected in the fact that the Tourism Alliance itself has 50 trade bodies associated with it.

In a statement issued yesterday, Cotton said: "Other industries are being bailed-out with massive financial support yet tourism is being ignored."

The tourism industry needs to do a better job of representing itself to governments both nationally and internationally.

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