By Claire West

The Government is merely tinkering with tourism’s potential at a time when tourism development looks set to be halted locally, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said in a new report.

Launching its tourism strategy, which is expected later this week, the Government is set to suggest that the May Day bank holiday will be moved to the autumn, and the UK should adopt a double summertime in an effort to boost the tourism sector.

The FSB is, however, extremely concerned that this is mere meddling at a time when crucial tourism funding is being lost locally following the dissolution of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) and the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

In a new report, ‘Tourism — a passport to growth’, the FSB is worried that the funding RDAs used to promote domestic tourism has disappeared and that this will have severe consequences on tourism revenue in local areas. This comes at a time when the Government has said that it wants more Britain’s to holiday at home.

The FSB is urging the Government to provide LEPs with the tools they need to promote tourism throughout local areas and reinstate the level of funding RDAs gave to the sector.

The FSB also believes that local authorities need incentives to encourage tourism. Currently, many are put off doing so because they have to spend money on maintenance, such as beaches and cleaning pavements.

The FSB is calling for a tourism Business Increase Bonus — a mechanism which allows local authorities to keep a percentage of the business rates they collect. This would help raise additional funds and would help local authorities to drive regeneration.

The Government must introduce further measures to boost domestic and international tourism. The FSB is urging the Government to:

- Pass responsibility for tourism policy from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to give tourism the clout it deserves

- Reduce the level of VAT in the tourism sector to help stimulate the market

- Reduce the regulatory burden on tourism businesses

- Focus on growing inbound tourism from growth economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China

By introducing these measures, the UK economy will benefit from the knock-on effects in the retail sector, see a boost in job creation, as well as the regeneration of local areas — all key if the economy is to fully recover.

John Walker, National Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said:

“The UK is going to play centre stage in the coming years with events such as the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Champion League Final and the Rugby Union World Cup all being hosted on these shores. This gives us a prime opportunity to up our game within the tourism sector and generate much needed growth for the UK economy — especially in rural areas.

“However, the Government is merely tinkering with tourism and has yet to unlock its true potential. The tourism sector needs a real boost and we need to ensure funds remain where they are truly needed. Tourism really can be a passport to growth, - creating jobs and growing our local areas. But we need the Government to put the right measures in place to unlock the true economic potential of the sector.”