VisitBritain Chief Executive Sandie Dawe takes the reins on the DCMS blog today, with a guest post on British Tourism Week, partying on piers and warming up Britain’s ‘welcome’.
The fifth British Tourism Week kicked off on Saturday with Party on the Pier, a national celebration of Britain’s piers and their heritage. Around 34 parties were hosted simultaneously, attracting national and media attention, to kick off a week long programme of around 200 events to raise awareness of Britain’s £115 billion visitor economy.
Tourism is a sector with the potential to create jobs and economic growth – it already employs 2.6 million people. Our 30 million inbound visitors a year make tourism the UK’s third largest earner of foreign exchange. And the industry has the potential to be one of the five fastest growing sectors of the UK economy.
As the national tourism agency – responsible for promoting Britain overseas and developing Britain’s visitor economy – our challenge is two-fold: to work with Government to increase Britain’s competitiveness as a destination and to increase international visitors’ aspiration to come to Britain by showcasing just how much the country has to offer.
Importantly for VisitBritain, the Government’s newly-published Tourism Policy re-emphasises the contribution our marketing effort will make to supporting British tourism. We are delivering a four-year match funded global marketing programme. This campaign aims to attract four million extra visitors to Britain, who will spend an additional £2 billion, and stimulate the creation of 50,000 new jobs, across four years.
VisitBritain will also continue to provide research; market intelligence and analysis to inform the British Tourism industry. Our research has identified problems with the visa application system, our ‘welcome’ (especially at immigration controls) and transport infrastructure. The Tourism Policy addresses these issues, looking at what can be done across Government to help tourism grow.
For instance, it commits the Home Office to increase the uptake of online visa applications to 90% by 2012, sharing visa application centres with trusted allies (e.g. Australia and the US), and looking at introducing a simpler application process for ‘low risk’ applicants.
Improving the welcome that visitors experience on arrival in the UK would have real benefits. On that we are already working with stakeholders from the aviation and maritime sectors, as well as the Home Office and Department for Transport on the Welcome to Britain project. The new welcome branding at Heathrow and Stansted airports is an early result.
Today – 15 March – marks 500 days to go until the London 2012 Games. Over the next months and years we have an unparalleled opportunity to raise Britain’s profile overseas because we are hosting the Royal Wedding, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and London 2012. The benefits to the British tourism industry could be substantial, and we need to ensure that we have a clear focus across Government to capitalise on these unprecedented opportunities
Photo by British Tourism Week on Flickr. All rights reserved.