The recession presents a huge opportunity to sell the domestic market was the message at the Best of Britain and Ireland Travel Trade Forum. 

The news came as new research from VisitEngland said 21% of people who went on holiday abroad in 2008 would consider looking to the UK for a break in 2009 to save money.

Tourism minister Barbara Follett opened the show claiming the domestic tourism industry could help the UK move out of recession.

The trade event, running March 26 – 29 at London’s ExCel, revealed the biggest concern was that the UK’s tourism offering is not being communicated to potential tourists.

Conservative shadow minister for Culture, media and sport Tobias Ellwood said: “People are choosing to look under their noses. The irony is it has taken a recession for that to happen.”

He admitted “competition is rife”  for holiday destinations, but said places such as Oxford, combined with the cultural heritage of the UK, give the country a unique offering. “But we need to get that across,” he added.

Shadow minister for secretary of state for culture, media and sport Don Foster said: “The real question is whether we grab these opportunities.”

Telegraph Travel editor Graham Boynton said last year marked a step change in affordability for the UK market as countries such as France and the UK are no longer cheaper.

He said: “Very few destinations work out cheaper than the UK. Britain is fantastic value for money.  We have to overcome our climates shortcomings by selling Britain as a value destination.”

VisitBritain director, strategy and insights Patricia Yates added:  “I do think the travel industry needs to start working up good exapmles and demonstrate real holidays that offer better value than overseas.”