Forum of Private Business calls for investigation into VisitBritain’s ‘virtual high street’
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Forum of Private Business calls for investigation into VisitBritain’s ‘virtual high street’

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The Forum of Private Business (FPB) has today presented a dossier to the European Commission calling for VisitBritain’s Englandnet tourism booking system to be investigated by the European Competition Authorities, claiming it could have ‘repercussions for true competition in the sector’.

Englandnet, created by the government-funded tourism marketing body, has been designed to be a ‘one stop virtual high street for English tourism’ to triple the number of visitors to its visitbritain.com and visitengland.com websites through promotional and distribution deals.

Following complaints by Helpful Holidays and Hoseasons Holidays however, which claim the site is a direct competitor to their businesses, the FPB has said compiled the dossier which claims Englandnet could be in breach of European State Aid rules.

“No government can engage in activity through state aid which distorts trade between member states,” said the chief executive of the FPB, Nick Goulding. “We want the competition authorities to assess whether this project, funded by the public sector, would do just that.

”The domestic holiday market is enormously competitive. Consumers have a wide choice of commercial organisations which will help them with their holiday choices and make bookings.

“The interference of the public sector into this already crowded market is unwelcome, unnecessary and will compete directly with private firms which already successfully offer consumers this service,” he said.

A spokesperson for VisitBritain said the organisation was aware that a state aid complaint regarding Englandnet was submitted to the European Commission on 5 November 2004 and that should the commission pursue the matter, it would be for the British government to respond.

“EnglandNet is a marketing medium for English tourism as a whole, providing information to end-users on England and parts of England as a destination,” he said.

“The opportunities provided by EnglandNet will be of tremendous importance to this country’s tourism industry and VisitBritain wants EnglandNet to be supported by all sectors. To that end VisitBritain will maintain a continuing dialogue with all interested parties.” Details: www.englandnet.co.uk and www.fpb.org

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The Forum of Private Business (FPB) has today presented a dossier to the European Commission calling for VisitBritain’s Englandnet tourism booking system to be investigated by the European Competition Authorities, claiming it could have ‘repercussions for true competition in the sector’.
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