Tourism Firms Accused of Under-Performing; in Association with Investment Management Poor Customer Relations Blamed as Thousands of Potential Jobs Lost to Merseyside Economy

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Byline: BY BARRY TURNBULL Daily Post Business Features Editor

MERSEYSIDE'S tourism economy is failing to reach its full potential because too many businesses in the sector are not meeting acceptable standards, it was claimed last night.

Although visitor spending in Capital of Culture year is expected to surge to pounds 1.4bn, the figure is still far removed from the region's pounds 2bn annual target.

As a result, the number of jobs created in the industry is far below its potential.

A NorthWest Development Agency study says that Merseyside's tourism economy is "under-performing" because there is not enough collaboration in the sector, too few business start-ups, poor productivity among existing enterprises and too few firms capable of exploiting information technology.

The study was drawn up as part of a plan to spend Merseyside's next round of Brussels-funded economic development cash.

The Mersey Partnership last night accepted the findings. Head of tourism Pam Wilsher said quality of product and customer relations were critical: "The reference to under-performance was about individual businesses within tourism not reaching their full potential. It is not about the destination under-performing as a whole.

"To elaborate further, this means that they are either not offering the quality of product that meets customer expectations, they lack the management skills to take their business forward, the skilled staff required to offer the right customer experience, the technology know how or marketing acumen. This is why the public sector intervenes - to help them address those areas and improve their performance."

But David Daly, chairman of Liverpool Hoteliers Association, hit back, saying: "The hotel sector is seeing substantial new investment both by new operators and existing ones. …