TOURISM organisation Experience Oxfordshire has united key businesses and stakeholders from across the county to boost the number of visitors.

A new Patron Scheme has been created and tourism expert Bob Cotton has been announced as the first Patron.

The initiative will see high-profile individuals align themselves to Experience Oxfordshire by championing the work that is undertaken by the organisation based in Oxford.

At the launch of the scheme last week Mr Cotton urged the public and private sectors to unite to boost the £2 billion tourism trade, which attracts about 27 million visitors a year.

Patrons will include individuals experienced in the tourism sector who are passionate about destination management, development and best practice.

Bob Cotton OBE has a celebrated career in the tourism and hospitality sector, including senior positions within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and was chief executive for the former British Hospitality Organisation for a decade.

Addressing business leaders Mr Cotton spoke about his enthusiasm for the industry and for Oxfordshire, while also chairing a discussion on key issues.

After the launch Mr Cotton said: “I am absolutely delighted to be the first Patron of Experience Oxfordshire and get behind this new initiative. Oxfordshire is a world-class destination and the work of Experience Oxfordshire is critical to its success in destination management.

“The public and private sectors across Oxfordshire should collaborate on driving sustainable growth in the visitor economy and I will do all I can to help influence this.

“It was great to see so many businesses and decision makers at the launch event and I urge all businesses across Oxfordshire to join Experience Oxfordshire”.

The event was hosted by the Mogford Group at The Old Bank Hotel and Quod Restaurant.

Guests were also given the exclusive opportunity to preview the roof terrace bedroom suite at the Hotel which is soon to be launched, giving spectacular views of Oxford’s dreaming spires and beyond.

Jeremy Mogford, owner of the Mogford Group, said: “The Old Bank Hotel and Quod were delighted to host the launch of Experience Oxfordshire’s new Patron Scheme.

“As an Ambassador of Experience Oxfordshire, the Mogford Group is supporting destination management across the city and county.

“It was a great opportunity to discuss key issues and network.”

Topics discussed included homelessness, visitor flow, transport, the number of hotel beds in the city and visitor experience.

Hayley Beer-Gamage, chief executive of Experience Oxfordshire, said: “We are very proud to have launched the Patron Scheme. Bob is such a credible figure in the sector and we are delighted to be working with him.”

Representatives also attended from Oxford Brookes University, Oxfordshire County Council, the Oxford Mail, Oxford Preservation Trust, Stagecoach Oxford, The Macdonald Randolph Hotel, Chiltern Railways, Christ Church, Jurys Inn Oxford and the Ashmolean Museum.