UK set to slip in tourist ranking

With the rise of China, India, Russia and Brazil as tourism powerhouses and increased global competition, the UK looks to slip in terms of global competitiveness in the travel industry. This was one of the conclusions at a World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) meeting on Friday in London and comes after the publication of its latest research on UK tourism.

The WTTC emphasised that better regulation, smarter taxation and a wider understanding of tourism’s economic standing in government and other agencies could lead to better growth.

“London is perceived to be an expensive city and (therefore) has a marketing issue, how do you position that?” Jean-Claude Baumgarten, WTTC President told the conference.

“There is no room for complacency. As more governments appreciate travel and tourism as a key social and economic driver, competitive stakes will rise.”

“The infrastructure also has to be enhanced, Heathrow, Terminal 3 was designed to handle seven million people—it now handles 23,” he explained.

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Although the United Kingdom is the sixth largest nation globally in terms of tourism demand in 2006, its ranking is expected to slip to seventh by 2016, even though tourism activity looks set to grow by 3.1 percent per year up to this date.

The country’s global ranking in terms of capital investment and government expenditure in the tourism sector is also expected to drop a place in the next ten years, even though government expenditure is predicted to rise in real terms.

This is according to figures from the WTTC’s Tourism Satellite Accounting (TSA) research, which is undertaken annually for 174 countries with research partner Oxford Economic Forecasting (OEF).

The strength of the outbound tourism and travel market was highlighted as being one of the UK’s strengths in terms of value and volume.

“The UK has some fantastic brands and capabilities in both the public and private sector, and is ranked fourth globally in terms of travel spend,” Alex Cruz, a partner at Accenture’s travel practice told the audience.

“But there is a change in demand and there are more specialist tastes now.”

At the event, the Olympic Games was seen as a great catalyst for raising standards, promoting the destination and spending in tourism infrastructure for London.

“It is essential to get travel and tourism right for the Games. These sectors have to work, people have to be able to sleep in hotels and get to the events,” says Paul Deighton, CEO of the organising committee for the 2012 Olympic Games.

“And we expect four billion television viewers—so it is a wonderful time to showcase London and the UK.”
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