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National heritage secretary Virginia Bottomley has urged the United Kingdom's tourism and hospitality industry to t...
National heritage secretary Virginia Bottomley has urged the United Kingdom's tourism and hospitality industry to take up the challenge and bid for money from a government initiative to help improve its competitiveness.

'The sector and local challenges announced today offer a great opportunity for all my department's sectors, especially tourism,' Mrs Bottomley said on Tuesday.

'Tourism makes a substantial and growing contribution to the national economy worth around £37bn a year. Last year was outstanding. We attracted a record 24 million visitors from overseas. All the indications are that 1996 is going to be even better.

'Tourism is currently creating more jobs than any other sector in the economy. Four out of every ten new jobs are in tourism.

'It also offers enormous opportunities for growth. Total spending by overseas visitors in June was £1.2bn - a massive 20% increase on June 1995. Some experts forecast it will be the world's largest industry by the start of the next century.

'We want our tourism industry to be in the best possible shape to build on this past success and respond to the growing competition from an ever increasing range of overseas destinations.

'I hope that trade associations, the tourist boards and other business support bodies, like training and enterprise councils and business links, will take up the challenge and work together to put forward strong proposals which will make a real difference to the competitiveness and long term profitability of the industry.'

The department of national heritage's initiatives to help the tourism industry to improve its competitiveness include:

-- Supporting a marketing campaign for London as the gateway to the United Kingdom

-- Publishing practical advice for hoteliers to help them meet customer demands

-- Publishing later this month a document to stimulate debate on how to develop the industry's most valuable asset - its people.

Mrs Bottomley said:

'Taken together, these measures and the sector challenge scheme announced today demonstrate the government's determination to work in partnership with the tourism industry for the benefit of both individual businesses and the country's economy.'

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