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Hospitality is now the fifth largest industry in the UK and directly employs more than 2.4 m people, contributing over £34bn in gross tax revenues.

According to David Cameron, income from the £115b tourism sector is fundamental to rebuild and rebalance the UKs economy and the sector provides one of the best and fastest ways of generating jobs.Such a statement has provided real momentum in work done by the British Hospitality Association (BHA), the leading representative organisation in the hospitality industry over the past 18 months.

Last week, saw the BHA hosting an inaugural Hospitality and Tourism Summit at the InterContinental Park Lane. 500 leaders of industry gathered for a series of topical debates, pro-active discussion and insightful industry presentations revolving around the question: How can London best participate in an increasingly competitive global travel environment?

The Summits keynote made by John Penrose MP, Minister for Tourism & Heritage outlined the governments changing approach to the Hospitality and Tourism industry. With both Hospitality and Tourism being such key drivers of the UK economy, he confirmed the industrys importance whilst encouraging action in partnership with government to help realise its great potential.

His statements were somewhat echoed throughout the summit through strong encouragement for industry to lobby and work with government instead of simply complaining about issues such as tourist visas and VAT. Debates at the summit also opened up much important dialogue between the movers and shakers of the hospitality and tourism economy, in the UK and abroad.

The summit demonstrated the dynamism of the UK tourism industry, as well as its reach. Not only do we have a fantastic infrastructure, we are premier leaguefor attractions. With the resounding success of the Queens Diamond Jubilee and with the Olympics and other major sporting events on the horizon, Britain really has a great opportunity to showcase itself and leverage huge global opportunity.

A presentation from John Smith, Chief Executive of BBC Worldwide even highlighted the strength of brands such as Lonely Planet, Dancing with The Stars and Top Gear, which play a huge part in promoting the UK around the world.

BHA chief executive, Ufi Ibrahim, pointed to these tremendous assets available to UK tourism but warned the sector must do more. The competition we face from overseas is stronger than ever as competition in global tourism is growing increasingly sophisticated.
Britain risks being left behind; we must stop talking and begin acting.

There is no doubt that the tourism industry in the UK will do well this year with all the upcoming events, but the major worry from delegates at the conference was the prospect of a post-Olympic slump.

Next year will therefore herald the most ambitious marketing campaign ever to attract visitors to the UK in the years following 2012. The £100m campaign, co-funded by the government and the private sector, aims to attract 4 million extra visitors to Britain over the next 4 years. That equates to £2bn more spend in our economy, and 50,000 new jobs. The goal for the future is to improve the sectors productivity to become one of the top five most efficient and competitive visitor economies in the world.

The summit was closed with an inspirational speech by Olympic gold medalist Dame Kelly Holmes and followed that evening by a sumptuous celebratory meal with special guests Sir Michael Caine CBE, Gavin Hastings OBE and Matt Dawson MBE.

For highlights and reaction from the BHA Summit please see our short video of the event.

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