Tories plan to overhaul English tourism bodies

Tories plan to overhaul English tourism bodies
Tories plan to overhaul English tourism bodies

LONDON - The Conservative Party is proposing a complete overhaul of English regional tourism and branding if it wins the next general election.

Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has vowed to abolish the Regional Development Agencies, which were introduced by Labour in 1998 to develop the economies of English regions and resulted in the creation of tourism brands such as VisitNorthWest.

Under Conservative plans, local authorities will be free to pick their own partners to develop tourism marketing, and operate under a brand of their choice. The party argues this would allow for the adoption of more logical geographical divisions, and strengthen the brand positioning of individual towns and attractions.

This would be overseen by VisitEngland, which would be given greater autonomy and funding. VisitBritain would still operate as an overseas marketing body with input from VisitEngland, Visit Wales and VisitScotland.

'Regional tourism needs a different approach,' said Tobias Ellwood MP, shadow minister for culture, media and sport. 'Some natural geographical boundaries make better branding than a regional area.'

VisitEngland's head of marketing, Amanda Smyth, said it would welcome any initiative that can improve the fortunes of English tourism.

Iain Ellwood, head of consulting at branding agency Interbrand, said the proposals could benefit tourists. 'It means destinations can have a more direct relationship with consumers,' he added.

Separately, VisitEngland has hired Northwest Development Agency director of tourism James Berresford as its first chief executive, while VisitBritain marketing director Michael Bedingfield is joining Tourism South East as chief executive.

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