Abta has expressed dismay at the departure of tourism minister John Penrose and concern at the prospect that he will not be replaced.

Penrose stood down this afternoon in what appears to be reduction in the number of ministers at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

In a statement Abta said: “News that tourism minister John Penrose has stood down as part of a downsizing of DCMS is of concern as we understand there are no plans to replace him.

“The travel industry called for a minister in order to oversee an effective tourism strategy and we have been encouraged to see progress in this area.

“We are awaiting confirmation from the government as to where the tourism portfolio will now sit.

“The government has said tourism is a key driver of economic growth and it is vital we have clear leadership in place at a time when the tourism legacy from the Olympics needs to be secured and the contribution from outbound, inbound and domestic tourism still needs to be properly understood.

“We will seek an early meeting with the new secretary of state Maria Miller to understand the government’s thinking.”

The British Hospitality Association also expressed concern. BHA deputy chief executive Martin Couchman said: “We are extremly disappointed that John Penrose has stepped down – he was a great supporter of the tourism industry.

“We would be extremely concerned if this indicated any downgrading of tourism in the DCMS’s list of priorities.”    

The DCMS declined to comment on Penrose’s departure or on changes at the department. But news of the minister’s going was on his own website. Penrose is MP for Weston-super-Mare.