30/11/2012 12:28 GMT | Updated 30/01/2013 05:12 GMT

Tourism - The Industry Leading This Country Into Growth

Britain has had a great year on the world stage but now comes the hard work to turn that global spotlight into visitors and growth for our economy.

International tourism - an industry where Britain already punches above its weight - can deliver.

As things stand we are at the pinnacle of our profile overseas. Never before have we had the sequence of events seen over the last two years and it has been a privilege to be chairman of the national tourist board during a period where we have hosted both the Games and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

These spectacular events created a once in a lifetime year for the British and a year in which our country has never looked so good to viewers around the world. That publicity will be harnessed by the tourism industry to drive visitors to Britain in the months and years to come.

For international tourism is a growth industry - it has grown by 3% in volume and 8% in nominal value since May 2010 and the number of people crossing international borders is set to pass the one billion mark for the first time in 2012. Last year Britain was the seventh most popular international tourism destination in the world. Not bad for a small island off the coast of continental Europe. But we can do better.

Tourism - responsible for one third of all new jobs between 2009 and 2011 - is the country's fifth largest employer, contributing £115 billion a year to the British economy and supporting 2.6 million jobs across the country.

Overseas tourism is an important part of the sector - it is UK's third largest source of foreign exchange earnings. Last year, we welcomed 31 million visitors who spent some £18 billion and contributed more than £3 billion in tax and duty to the Exchequer. For 2013, we are forecasting that the volume of international tourism to Britain will grow by 3%, meaning almost one million extra visitors will come to the UK. The amount spent by these visitors is set to reach £19bn for the first time, representing growth of 2.5%.

But a country's tourism offer is about more than money. Tourism offers not just jobs but careers for life. It employs young people - 44 % of people employed in tourism are under 30 against a national average of 24%, and those young people are in training to become Ambassadors for Britain, welcoming visitors to their hotels, attractions and shops - taking on the mantle of the Games Makers. For tourism is an industry where everyone from the Chairman of VisitBritain to hotel bar staff are able to represent their country.

Tourism is also a key contributor to building a country's image - and how others see us influences not just whether people come for a week's holiday but also whether they choose to invest in British business or to relocate their families to live here and their companies to operate here. Just last week Britain was named as the top country for soft power - our ability to influence other nations continues to grow.

And travel and tourism contributes to the infrastructure of our country - airports, hotels - and shared cultural connections that make Britain an attractive place to live.

Of course the market place for global tourism is getting tougher. Our share of global tourism is in decline as leaders of developed and developing countries alike recognise that tourism can deliver jobs and growth.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the USA, which has set out a national tourism strategy for the first time. It aims to attract 100 million overseas visitors a year by 2021 with an annual visitor spend of $250 billion.

We are not shirking from the challenge of competition. We have spent much of the year developing a tourism strategy for Britain which is capable of delivering a golden legacy from 2012's remarkable events.

The GREAT campaign has showcased the very best that Britain has to offer and has seen us working in much closer partnership with the other key agencies that promote Britain overseas - UKTI, the British Council and the FCO. But still more needs to be done.

Research (from Tourism Economics) has shown that if we can get the right partnerships, the right marketing and the right policy actions we can increase inbound visitor numbers from 31 million to 40 million by the end of the decade - an increase of 9 million visitors by 2020 creating £8.7 billion a year in additional foreign exchange earnings and over 200,000 more jobs.

Through consultation with the industry, we have arrived at an unprecedented level of alignment on what needs to be done. We now have to turn support into commitment and generate the funds needed to put the plans into action

The British Tourism industry consists of a few global players and over 200,000 small businesses. It is inherently fragmented. But, our industry's success through this golden summer has in no small part been the result of exceptional levels of collaboration between industry members, the public sector and the Government.

As we go forward, our resources are limited by austerity budgets and Britain can no longer count on the global media attention given to us by 2012. Our best chance of succeeding against strong global competition is if we focus and deliver clear collaborative plans for each priority market.

We already have the backing of our new ministers - in a recent blog Maria Miller, the new Culture Secretary, recognised that 'tourism is key to the UK's growth strategy' and as chair of the GREAT board she brings a personal commitment to the strategic direction of the GREAT Britain campaign.

Tourism success depends on partnerships and single minded aligned leadership from all the stakeholders in our industry. 2012 showed we know how to work together.

Now the hard work really begins as we build on that momentum.