Tourism blow as head quits suddenly

By Jack Foley

 

LONDON will no longer be able to compete as a world city if something is not done soon, according to the former head of the London Tourist Board (LTB) who quit suddenly this week (Wednesday, April 10th, 2002).

Teresa Wickham announced her decision in a letter to Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, as the capital continues to struggle to recover from the tourism slump brought on by last year's foot-and-mouth crisis. She also called on the mayor to come up with an urgent action plan to prevent the city from slumping further.

She is quoted as saying that she has done all she can for London and that, 'there is nothing more I can do'. She said that the capital was already losing 'significant' numbers of American visitors before foot-and-mouth and 'there is no strategy in place to reverse the trend'.

"If nothing is done urgently, London will no longer be able to compete as a world city," she concluded.

The tourism lull was prompted by the foot-and-mouth crisis last year and was dealt a further blow following the September 11 attacks in America. Tourism figures for last year showed a 16% drop in overseas visitors nationwide to just over 21 million.

News of the resignation will come as a blow for the LTB as 53-year-old Mrs Wickham is very highly rated. She was formerly a director of corporate affairs with Safeway.

However, she has been unhappy at the enormity of the task facing her for some time, claiming that the LTB was drastically under-funded and its cause underminded by the number of competing bodies within the tourism sector. She also complained that the board received only £2 million in funding to promote London with its population of seven million, while places such as Wales receive £30 million, despite only having a population of four million. London, she claimed, needs at least £12 million to do it justice.

Mrs Wickham went on to call for the Confederation of British Industry, The British Hospitality Association and the Overseas Tour Operators to form one board in order to give London a stronger voice, before accusing Ken Livingstone of not doing enough to help.

She concluded by insisting that now is the time for action to reverse the decline and wished her successor good luck for the future.

Paul Hopper, LTB managing director, responded to the news of Mrs Wickham's resignation by saying that the board and its members and stakeholders, would miss her 'energy and enthusiasm' and wished her continued success for the future.

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