LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British Prime Minister David Cameron urged the tourism industry on Wednesday to use events like Prince William's wedding and the Olympics to sell the country as a holiday destination.
Cameron, who took office last year, wants to pep up the hospitality sector at a time of public spending cuts. He has his eye on luring more tourists from Asia and Latin America, as well as more traditional markets like Europe and the United States.
He sees high-profile celebrations like William's wedding to Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey in April and next year's Olympics as perfect showcases for the country.
"This year and next will see the eyes of the world focused on Britain as never before," Cameron told industry figures at a reception in London.
"A royal wedding, Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee and of course the London Olympic and Paralympic Games offer us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, not just for national pride and celebration, but also to promote this country as the perfect tourist destination," he added.
Cameron has set a target of helping to create 50,000 jobs and bringing an additional 2 billion pounds of visitor spending to Britain. The sector accounts for 1.5 million jobs.
Almost 30 million overseas residents visited Britain in 2009, spending 16.6 billion pounds.
Companies including British Airways, lastminute.com, ferry operators DFDS and P&O, and hotelier Radisson Edwardian have pledged cash and payment in kind for a national tourism fund to help match 50 million pounds of public money from national tourism agency, VisitBritain.
Britain's transport infrastructure is sometimes seen as an Achilles' heel in its efforts to attract more tourists.
The closure of Heathrow airport, the country's largest, following a snowstorm on the weekend before Christmas stranded thousands of passengers, while rail services were also hit.
Reporting by Keith Weir; Editing by Steve Addison