The travel industry struggles to make its case to government because tourism ministers lack authority.

UN World  Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) secretary general Taleb Rifai queried how effective any tourism minister can be when he told a Global Tourism Forum in Andorra: “We need a stronger voice for tourism.”

Rifai, himself a former tourism minister of Jordan, said: “No minister of tourism is strong enough to face up to a minister of security or transport.” He added: “Another problem is that tourism ministers change every six months.”

But Rifai insisted: “Tourism ministers do understand the issues. When I was a minister I was more in bed with the private sector than with my government colleagues.”

He said appeals for industry unity were wasted, arguing: “It is naïve to assume we could speak with one voice. However, we could agree on a common denominator and that is not happening.”

World Travel and Tourism Council president and chief executive David Scowsill told the WTO forum: “Too often we talk about issues we can’t control. But we can control the visa process and air traffic control, VAT on travel and air departure taxes – these are things we might change if we fight hard enough.

“We have to find a way of getting industry leaders to work in a concerted way to get over to government how important the industry is.”