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VisitBritain has launched a consultation on an ambitious growth plan which aims to attract 40 million visitors to Britain by 2020. The strategy is built on Britain’s successful hosting of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by showing that aligning marketing and Government policy can deliver an economic legacy. Reaching that figure would deliver £8.7 billion additional foreign exchange earnings at today’s prices, and support more than 200,000 additional jobs. According to VisitBritain, TV viewers have seen a country that can not only deliver a great Games, but can also welcome the world and host a great party. Initial reports indicate that this international coverage has positively shifted perceptions of Britain, particularly in terms of creativity, heritage and culture, arts and music and the welcome offered to visitors.
Christopher Rodrigues, Chairman of VisitBritain, said: “This summer has shown what the country can do when we are united in a common cause. This country showed passion, professionalism, drive and energy to stage the best ever Olympic and Paralympic Games. The test now is whether we can maintain this to create wealth and jobs through a major tourism drive.
“This consultation with the industry, the public agencies and multiple Government departments that care about tourism and impact on its success has been designed to identify shared priorities and potential partnerships. International tourism is a growth industry but the global marketplace is getting tougher as other countries have recognised the potential of the sector. Britain can succeed if we focus – aligning priorities, investment and activity.
“Tourism is the industry that can deliver the economic legacy of the 2012 Games. It is an industry that can deliver jobs quickly – right across Britain and at all skills levels – and much needed economic growth. Every £40,000 spent by overseas visitors to Britain can create a new job. International tourism is our third-largest earner of foreign exchange and contributed £3.1 billion to the nation’s coffers directly in taxation in 2011.”
VisitBritain’s upbeat tone contrasts sharply with a report this week by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva) which says the UK’s top tourist attractions have had their worst summer for visitor figures in over a decade. According to its research, many sites, including London Zoo, the Tower of London and Kew Gardens, reported a dip in numbers with some attracting 60 per cent fewer visitors in 2012. Alva says the wet summer and the Olympics were to blame for the poor attendance. It does explain, however, that Alva has always taken the view that the economic benefits for tourism of hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games would be long term rather than short term.
VisitBritain maintains that the UK remains a key player in the tourism stakes. According to its figures, the UK already welcomes 31 million visitors from across the world, who spent £18 billion a year here last year. Tourism is a major part of the UK economy. It contributes £115 billion to UK GDP, and provides employment for 2.6 million people – around 9% on both measures. One in twelve jobs in the UK is currently either directly or indirectly supported by tourism.
The key elements of VisitBritain’s strategy include enhancing Britain’s image by playing to its strengths – heritage, traditional and contemporary culture – and addressing perceived weaknesses such as natural beauty, food, value and welcome. Other objectives are to work with the travel trade in key markets to ensure Britain is packaged and sold effectively; build Britain’s strong product offer to ensure that destinations can be easily packaged and that Britain continues to meet the expectations of new visitors from growth markets and make it easier to travel to the UK by addressing barriers to growth such as aviation capacity and the visa regime.
The consultation also considers wider factors affecting Britain’s competitiveness, including the global population shift to cities, the balance between targeting volume or value, and how to reverse the decline in major source markets such as the US whilst also ensuring Britain captures its share of the growth from emerging economies.
*VisitBritain invites contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The consultation period runs until 9 November. The final strategy will be launched once the responses have been considered.