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British Tourist Authority brings in Andrew Stokes to oversee £40m Discover England fund

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Andrew Stokes, the former CEO of Marketing Manchester, has been named interim director, England by the British Tourist Authority (BTA).

Stokes is tasked with overseeing implementation of the £40m ‘Discover England Fund’ announced in chancellor George Osborne’s November Comprehensive Spending Review.

His appointment comes amid the controversial decision by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) to go against expert recommendations to split VisitEngland and VisitBritain; choosing instead to bring them closer together under the responsibility of the BTA. The move has been widely criticised by tourism industry bosses, with Tourism Alliance director Kurt Janson telling Leisure Opportunities that it risks harming domestic tourism in England.

BTA chief executive Sally Balcombe has confirmed that the organisation’s priorities, as directed by government, are to market the nations and regions of Britain overseas to drive growth in international leisure and business tourism.

In his role as director, England, Stokes will lead on the development and delivery of the £40m ‘Discover England Fund’. The BTA says the fund is specifically for England tourism product development to ensure that ‘bookable’ regional product is being sold in international markets.

Despite industry concerns that the BTA is turning away from the promotion of tourism domestically, the organisation says domestic tourism will also benefit from the new international focus, as money will be spent on “developing a product that will be attractive to domestic as well as international markets.”

BTA chief executive Sally Balcombe said: “I am very pleased to welcome Drew as the new director, England. He brings a wealth of skills, experience and industry contacts to the role making him a powerful voice for England as we focus on the government’s priorities set out in the CSR settlement.

“Our ambition is to spread the economic benefits of tourism across the English regions focusing on product development, building partnerships and greater co-ordination across the industry.”

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Andrew Stokes, the former CEO of Marketing Manchester, has been named interim director, England by the British Tourist Authority (BTA).
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