My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met the chairman of VisitBritain on 22 January and on 24 April 2007. I met VisitBritain's chairman on 19 February 2007. Among other matters discussed on each occasion were VisitBritain's role in maximising the opportunities for tourism from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, and the refocusing of VisitBritain's activities in preparation for these.
VisitBritain's objectives are set out in its Funding Agreement with the Department, a copy of which is lodged in the Library of the House. These objectives were agreed to ensure the best possible support for the British tourism industry.
VisitBritain's future funding levels are presently being considered as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
VisitBritain has monitored and analysed the opportunities in the expanding market represented by the 12 countries that have acceded to the European Union since 1997.
Following this analysis, VisitBritain is active in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, where the evidence suggests the return on investment can currently be maximised. VisitBritain opened a new office in Budapest in early 2007, with Hungary and the Czech Republic falling under its remit. VisitBritain's work in Poland, which was previously the responsibility of its Berlin office, is being integrated into the Budapest office. The number of staff employed in marketing work in these countries has not been affected by the re-structuring proposals which VisitBritain announced recently.
Global Insight has forecast that the total world market from these countries will increase, in terms of outbound overnight visits between 2005 and 2010, as follows:
2005 2010 Percentage increase Czech Republic 3.2 4.4 37.5 Hungary 2.4 3.2 33.3 Poland 5.8 7.7 32.7
A market profile for each of these countries is available on VisitBritain's industry website
VisitBritain is currently consulting on its proposals for re-structuring its overseas marketing operations. The changes are designed to focus VisitBritain's activities on developing markets, and to meet the challenges posed by emerging market trends such as the move away from printed consumer literature, and towards online marketing. The UK consultation process will end on 31 May.
The number of posts, by location, which VisitBritain proposes to reduce as part of its present re-structuring process is as follows:
(a) in the UK, 55;
(b) in other European Union member states, 29;
(c) in North America, none; and
(d) in other countries, none.
In the UK, VisitBritain proposes to discontinue 45 vacant posts, to make 20 posts redundant, and to create 10 new posts. VisitBritain proposes to increase staffing levels in the Asia Pacific region.