By Nicola Hyde
TOURISM locations across the UK are missing out on the cash allocated to them because of problems in the way it is distributed, an MP has claimed.
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative shadow minister for tourism, spoke at BTTF and claimed that the current structure where money is filtered through regional development agencies is not working.
He said: "We are very very concerned about how money is being used in many RDAs across the country. There is a real question about whether they are delivering value for money or are interfering with money getting to the front line. We question whether the money gets syphoned off.
"There are some good examples where RDAs have worked to immediately push the money out but in other cases that's not the way."
He said the way money is distributed is too complicated and that the party is now conducting its own tourism review.
He added: "We are losing out to our competitors and we need to up our game. That requires stronger leadership, a better structure. The start would be to have a tourism minister that does nothing more than look after tourism and fight off the red tape from all the other departments."
Don Foster, Lib Dem shadow secretary for culture, added: "The biggest problem is there is no democratic accountability. Local government and the regional RDAs for the South West should have been able to sort out the different problems around Stone Henge but there is a lack of joined up thinking in regards to tourism. If we are going to have RDAs then it has to be crystal clear about what the role of each of these should be."
Tourism minister Margaret Hodge was at the centre of the Tourism Society Question Time debate, insisting that the purpose of the ongoing tourism review was to make the best of government money.
She said: "I completely disagree on the value of worth of RDAs. There is a real role for them to promote tourism."
Tom Wright, CEO of VisitBritan, added: "I think we need to have an efficient structure. There is a great enthusiasm to come up with a better framework that works for destinations and we are optimistic that we will find an improved framework that is more efficient and more effective."