The Government’s decision to cut VisitBritain’s funding by 18% has prompted accusations that it is not committed to the UK travel industry.

Culture secretary James Purnell told the organisationon Wednesday that its funding would be reduced from £55.1 million this financial year to £45.8million in 2010/11.

Hoseasons chief executive Richard Carrick immediately reacted,saying the move would send out the wrong message to the trade and could have an impact on the number of potential bookings for UK holidays.

He said: “We regularly talk to politicians who claim support and understanding but it feels like a kick in the teeth. It appears they are paying lip service. You will not find as people walking into travel agencies asking for British holidays without promoting it.”

Stephen Dowd, chief executive of UKinbound, a trade association for tourism companies that sends holidaymakers to the UK, said the move had put the potential benefits of the Olympic Games at risk.

He said: “James Purnell has emasculated VisitBritain and our competitors will be rubbing their hands with glee.”

Maggie Rogers, director of Shropshire-based the Travel Wallet,added: “It‘s a terrible shame because we need all the help we can get. London can be expensive so it needs as much promotion as possible.”

VisitBritain chairmanChristopher Rodrigues said the funding cut would be “challenging” for the company but it would remain committed to delivering the tourism benefits of the Olympic Games.

He said: “We are disappointed but have no plans to decrease our overseas footprint and our Olympicplans are going ahead. We have to work hard and in a smarter way to make sure the funds are used effectively.”