The nation’s tourism authorities are to launch a drive to get more overseas visitors to visit the rest of the country, amid fears that the industry has become unbalanced in favour of London.
New research for Visit Britain has shown that of the 31 million who visited these shores last year – a record number – half went to the capital alone, never venturing outside the M25.
The rest of England welcomed 13 million tourists, Scotland 2.2 million and Wales 0.9 million, prompting the organisation to make attracting visitors beyond the capital’s draws of Buckingham Palace and the West End its new priority.
The initiative will see the delights of country pubs, Stonehenge and cathedral cities such as Winchester and Lincoln promoted in campaigns abroad.
It will also attempt to convey to potential visitors that Britain is a comparatively small country and relatively easy to get around – and that they should not worry about driving on the left hand side of the road.
Research conducted among holidaymakers from US, France, Norway and Germany found there was a “general lack of knowledge” about other destinations outside of London, confusion as to which nations made up the British Isles, and “nerves” about driving on Britain’s roads.
A quarter said it was “too expensive” to travel across Britain, but nearly 30 per cent said they simply did not what it was like elsewhere in the UK or what was on offer. One more traditional foreign view of Britain appears to have faded, however, as only one in ten said the food was “poor”.
Sandie Dawe, the chief executive of Visit Britain, said London’s place on the world stage had been a huge draw, but that the rest of the country had huge potential to benefit.
“London is so popular and so dominant that when people think about Britain it’s such a strong draw. It’s a huge benefit, but also a challenge.
“The Olympics increased the interest in Britain around the world. We just have to make sure that some of our other fantastic assets are not put into the shade by the brilliance of London’s light.”
She added: “We have got some fantastic heritage, history and culture outside of London. When tourists think about romance, luxury, relaxation, France and Italy will pop into their heads before they think about Britain. But we have got some beautiful cathedral towns, such as Winchester, Salisbury, York, Chester or Lincoln.”
Visit Britain offices abroad are to be given a “Beyond London” dossier of suggestions for destinations to promote. Among the “hidden gems” which will be highlighted are Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, which was used as Hogwarts in parts of the Harry Potter series of films, the more than 2,000 miles of navigable canals and rivers, and the country pubs of Suffolk, which Visit Britain hopes will become a “foodie” destination.
The tourist authority is also likely to step up its work with the English Premier League. Shinji Kagawa, Manchester United’s Japanese footballer, has already extolled the virtues of Britain in a video for Visit Britain and the popularity of the league is already bringing in football fans from countries such as Norway and Belgium.
Visit Britain is also to step up efforts to exploit opportunities presented by low-cost airlines which use regional airports for direct flights to Europe. Although most passengers are British tourists, the airports have already seen an increase in Europeans coming to new destinations, with examples including Liverpool proving a hit for Spanish visitors.
Ms Dawe said far more could be achieved with the right strategy. “With places like Italy, people around the world would know Rome, Florence, Pisa, Venice, Naples,” she said.
“But when it comes to Britain they may say Windsor or Bath but that would be it. If you look at places such as the north-east there are beautiful castles and coastal walks. Suffolk is absolutely beautiful – there are places like Lavenham and Long Melford – and there is great potential in East Anglia as tourists often tell us they are interested in country pubs, and the British way of life.”
She added: “A large part of it is simply educational. When I speak to people in Brazil, India or China, you are talking to people from huge countries who cannot quite gather how small our country is. I tell Brazilians you can fit most of Great Britain in between Rio and Sao Paulo, and that it would take the same time to get to Scotland and the Highlands as it would to fly between the two cities. They have no idea.”
Edinburgh is Britain’s most popular single destination outside London, with 1.3 million foreign visitors last year. Other leading destinations include Manchester, which had 932,000; Cambridge, 398,000; York, 199,000; and Windsor, which had 182,000.
63% of respondents now want to visit Britain with 75% looking beyond London
January 2013 ? (Visit Britain website)
A new study commissioned by VisitBritain and its partners in the* suggests that global perceptions of ‘Welcome’, Britain’s ‘Overall Nation Brand’ and the UK’s sporting and cultural credentials have significantly improved thanks to the hosting of the London 2012 Games.
The Nations Brands Index (NBI) research** rates 50 of the world’s leading nations around six core categories. Research was carried out in July 2012 and then repeated post Games. The study sets out to reveal how the international image of a country can change before and after hosting a major sporting event.
According to the new research Britain’s ‘Welcome’ has seen the biggest jump by moving from twelfth place pre-Games to ninth – putting Britain in the top 10 for the very first time.
Britain’s ‘Overall Nation Brand’ and ‘Culture’ ranking moved up one place. ‘Tourism’ held its position in fourth place, with ‘People’ remaining fifth overall. Fourteen of the total 15 panel countries rank the UK within the top 10 on the overall NBI. Nine of the 15 panel countries – including key source markets USA, China, Japan, Russia and India – put the UK in the top three post Games, a marked improvement on previous years.
More key findings include:
• 63 per cent said the Olympics had increased their interest of visiting for a holiday
• 75 per cent of those who saw coverage agreed they wanted to see more than London
• 73 per cent agreed that Britain offered outstanding venues for watching live sport
• 70 per cent said Britain has lovely countryside
• 58 per cent agreed that Britain has a wide variety of world cuisines on offer
Perceptions of British sport see it move two places into the top five in the overall rankings (5th). The UK will continue to host major sporting events in the coming years with a Champions league Final, Tour de France, Rugby Union and Rugby League World Cups, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in 2014, followed by the World Athletics Championships to be held in London in 2017.
Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive of VisitBritain said: “London’s hosting of the Games, the amazing opening and closing ceremonies and the warmth of welcome shown to our international visitors have combined to boost our global image.
“With our partners we have taken every opportunity to promote Britain to overseas audiences through our GREAT marketing campaign, our digital activity on Facebook and Twitter and by inviting foreign travel journalists to write about Britain. This work is now paying off with post Games visitor figures significantly up on last year, and prospects for 2013 looking strong.
“Britain is already an established visitor destination and our tourism ranking is high. The goal this year was to maintain rankings in culture and heritage where we are strong, and improve in areas such as the warmth of our welcome where we had room for improvement. We intend to build on these encouraging results to ensure we turn that increased goodwill into visitors and deliver a growth in tourism that will deliver jobs across the country.”
Culture Secretary Maria Miller said: “The summer of 2012 put the UK firmly in the global spotlight, allowing us to shape international perceptions and show the best of Britain. These results are very encouraging, and show that the UK’s sporting and cultural credentials have significantly improved thanks to London 2012. We are determined to deliver a lasting economic legacy for the whole country, boosting tourism and growth.”
To maximise the promotion of Britain overseas before, during and after the Games, VisitBritain together with UKTI, British Council and FCO mounted a major marketing campaign under the banner GREAT Britain. The campaign showcases the very best of Britain in a highly impactful campaign promoting culture, heritage, countryside and sport, and also education and business.
Notes to editors
* GREAT Partners include: VisitBritain; Cabinet Office, UKTI; FCO and British Council
** NBI research conducted by Anholt-GfK Roper. The post-Games NBI wave was undertaken in 15 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Turkey, UAE and USA. Respondents rated 50 nations on questions in six categories: Exports, Governance, Culture, People, Tourism and Immigration/Investment.
Read the full analysis of the study here. January 2013
The GREAT Britain campaign:
‘Yes, London is GREAT, now explore the rest of the country’, declares Visit Britain
By SARAH GORDON
5 August 2013 (Daily Mail)
Of the 31 million people who visited Britain last year, half spent at least one night in London, while of the 12 million holidaymakers who came to these shores, two-thirds based themselves in the capital for at least a night.
Now Visit Britain is looking at how it can shift holidaymakers’ focus and encourage them to explore the UK’s other delights, with new tourism campaigns and extra information supplied to its tourist offices abroad.
Visit Britain offices around the world are going to be given special packs to help them better ‘sell’ the delights of Britain, from Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, which appeared in the Harry Potter films, to Stonehenge and experiences like our country pubs and canal network.
These will tie in with an extension of Visit Britain’s hugely successful ‘GREAT’ campaign, which has targeted key cities in key markets with films and image-led print adverts showcasing what makes Britain great.
Two problems the tourist board faces are convincing the rest of the world how small and easy-to-navigate the UK is and how driving on the left is not as daunting as it seems.
While Edinburgh remains the second most popular tourist destination after London, many tourists miss cathedral cities such as Lincoln, York, Winchester and Salisbury. However, Bath and Windsor often feature on itineraries for their heritage and royal links.
And while regional airports have encouraged visitors to other cities such as Liverpool, few explore rural spots, despite the abundance of picturesque villages, traditional pubs and verdant landscapes.
Visit Britain is keen to highlight that it is not trying to encourage visitors to avoid London, but that it has spotted an opportunity for ‘London Plus’ tourism, with visitors combining the capital with other experiences.
Heritage: Tourists could be encouraged to visit Cathedral cities like Lincoln
The latest research by Visit Britain found that London remains the key draw for visitors, but the majority of those questioned would like to combine it with trips to destinations up to two or three hours away.
However, knowledge about what else to see in Britain can be scant in some markets, with holidaymakers concentrating more on ticking off the top sights in the capital.
On a more positive note, the reasons cited for wanting to travel beyond London include wanting to explore more heritage sites, to add variety to their itineraries, to find unique places to stay and see the countryside and to see how British people live.
Visit Britain’s aim is to approach tourism to the UK much as they do in countries like Italy, where visitors are keen to explore cities like Venice and Florence as much as Rome.
In Italy, visitors spent just 13 per cent of their stay in Rome, while in France, tourists spent just 26 per cent of overnight stays in Paris. However, in the UK, 41 per cent of overnight stays are spent in London.
A spokesperson for Visit Britain confirmed: “We compete against a number of other destinations where overseas visitors tend to visit a wider range of locations. We want visitors to enjoy brilliant London but then extend their stay by visiting other parts of Britain, something our research proves they are keen to do.”
But tourism figures for the UK so far this year are positive, showing a 2 per cent rise in visitors during the first five months of the year and a a 10 per cent spike in cash generated.
The £25 million ‘GREAT’ image tourism campaign – which has targeted 14 major cities in nine countries – is also performing well on the international stage, especially when compared to competitor tourist boards with substantially larger budgets.
Nearly three-quarters of the audience in target cities recall seeing the ‘GREAT’ campaign and 23 per cent of those who recall the campaign plan to visit in the next year.
Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain said: “In 2012 Britain became the first Olympic host since Sydney to see an increase in inbound tourism in the year of the Games.
“The GREAT campaign is playing a major role in our efforts to attract a greater number of overseas visitors, with those seeing our images increasingly likely to visit the UK in the next few years. It is essential that we continue to deliver this campaign in our high value tourism markets and the growth markets of the future if we are to enhance overseas perceptions of Britain as a must see destination.”