By Mary Ferguson
THE chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA) has appealed to the new Prime Minister to 'take tourism seriously' by increasing funding and showing more interest in the industry.
Former tourism minister Lord Lee of Trafford addressed Gordon Brown the day after he succeeded Tony Blair in June, during Lords' question time.
After asking if the new PM would consider bringing tourism into the title of the department for culture, media and sport - and receiving a 'deadpan' response - Lord Lee stated that the non-mention was 'symptomatic of the lack of interest in the industry shown by Tony Blair'.
Speaking exclusively to Destination UK, he said: "We want Gordon Brown to be a lot more supportive of tourism than Blair was. We want more interest shown, and Visit-Britain's funding increased as at the moment we have a limited representation overseas. The cost of visas also needs to be addressed."
At the moment, he said, it can cost an Indian family up to £400 to come into the UK, and this is putting people off visiting.
"We'd like to see Mr Brown start accepting invitations to tourism events and conferences, to show willing if nothing else. As chancellor he didn't show much interest in the industry but we hope this will change now he is Prime Minister."
To welcome Gordon Brown into his new role, the ALVA delivered a package to his personal secretary, containing tickets to iconic visitor attractions that form 'the jewels in the crown' of the tourism industry.
The new PM now has the chance to treat his children to a free day out at venues including York Minster, Kew Gardens, the National Portrait Gallery and Chester Zoo. Lord Lee added: "We hope that he and his family will make use of these tickets. It's our visitor attractions that encourage people to come to the UK and the Government needs to take more interest in our cultural heritage - as well as topping up funds for museum purchases. I'm optimistic for the future of UK tourism but it's vital that we get more support."