Tourism must move away from Cool Britannia - Cameron

Image caption,
New Labour's rise came at the peak of the "Cool Britannia" phenomenon

UK tourism must focus on "heritage" instead of the Labour government's attempt to market the country as "Cool Britannia", David Cameron has said.

Speaking in central London, the prime minister urged people to be "proud" of the UK's history.

The country was not "doing enough" to break into the top five most-visited destinations in the world, he added.

But Labour said Mr Cameron's government had failed to come up with any "constructive policy measures".

A report last month suggested tourism's contribution to the economy could grow by more than 60% to £188bn by 2020.

The number of jobs directly and indirectly linked to tourism could rise by 264,000 to 2.89 million in that time, said the study for Visit Britain.

'Beat Germany'

Mr Cameron said measures to help the industry would include speeding up the process of getting visas for visitors from India and China.

Media caption,
"We've just not been working hard enough to celebrate our country and home and sell our country abroad"

He said: "I want to see us in the top five destinations in the world. But that means being much more competitive internationally.

"Take Chinese tourists, for example. We're their 22nd most popular destination. But Germany is forecast to break into their top 10. Why can't we?"

He added: "If we can't always beat Germany at football, then we can beat them at tourism."

Mr Cameron said the Labour government had "underplayed" tourism, appointing eight different ministers to handle the brief during its 13 years in power.

He added: "They just didn't get our heritage. They raided the National Lottery, taking money from heritage because it didn't go with their image of 'cool Britannia'."

"Cool Britannia" was a label given to the Britpop music, art and fashion seen in the mid to late-1990s.

Tony Blair's Labour government was linked with the label after the then prime minister invited Oasis singer Noel Gallagher, plus other celebrities, to a Downing Street drinks reception in 1997.

Mr Cameron said tourism should focus more on national parks, seaside towns, heritage sites such as castles and country houses, museums, galleries, theatres and festivals.

He told an audience of industry experts at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens: "We should be proud of our potential because we are proud of our country and what it has to offer. I love going on holiday in Britain."

'Weak gags'

Conservative MP John Penrose is compiling a report for the prime minister on whether it is possible to encourage UK citizens to spend more of their money at home, rather than abroad.

Mr Cameron said he hoped the country could "up our game" to increase the proportion from 36% to 50%.

For Labour, shadow culture secretary Ben Bradshaw said: "Before making a speech on heritage, David Cameron should have read up on some recent history.

"Labour's introduction of free admission to national museums and galleries has helped to attract people from around the world, while opening up access to our rich cultural heritage for everyone in Britain. We created new national parks to protect some of our greatest natural heritage and opened up our coastal paths.

"If David Cameron wishes to further improve Britain's offering for tourists, perhaps he should come up with some constructive policy measures, rather than weak gags about losing to Germany at football."

The United Nations ranks the UK as the sixth-most visited destination in the world, behind France, the US, Spain, China and Italy.

Domestic and overseas visitors put an estimated £115bn a year into the UK. Foreign visitors' spending could almost double from £16bn to £31bn by 2020, according to Visit Britain.

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