VisitBritain, the new organisation that from 1 April will incorporate the marketing of England within Britain alongside the marketing of Britain to the rest of the world, was officially launched today at the British Travel Trade Fair in Birmingham by Tourism Minister Dr Kim Howells.
The creation of VisitBritain
comes five months after Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell completed a review of the structure of tourism within Britain, resulting in a decision to combine the resources and strengths of the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourism Council.
One of the new organisation’s first priorities is to launch England’s first domestic marketing campaign for several years. Set to launch just after Easter, the campaign will encourage British residents to take a fresh look at the wonderful places and great value products that lie on their own doorstep.
The campaign, developed in partnership with and funded by the nine Regional Development Agencies, will focus on the hugely improved but currently under-marketed England offer. VisitBritain is also developing a long term marketing strategy for England and putting a team in place to deliver the strategy.
In the international arena, VisitBritain’s immediate priority will be to reassure potential overseas visitors about travelling to Britain in the current political climate and develop recovery plans aimed at valuable long haul markets such as the USA. In addition, VisitBritain will launch a campaign in Europe to promote short breaks in British cities this autumn.
Dr Kim Howells, MP, said: “The Government is convinced that we have in place a credible and effective organisation that can quickly develop campaigns for use at home and abroad. VisitBritain will carry forward the excellent work undertaken by the British Tourist Authority to market Britain overseas, while creating a strong marketing force for England at home and abroad.”
Tom Wright, chief executive of VisitBritain, said staff within the new organisation are hugely enthusiastic about the challenge: “The British tourism product has improved almost beyond recognition in the past decade. We believe there is huge potential to convince audiences at home of the merits of our magnificent coast and countryside, cities, activities and culture. And of course we will do this alongside our world class campaigns to encourage overseas visitors to come to Britain on holiday, on business or to visit family and friends.”
VisitBritain’s launch and strong focus recognizes the growing importance of tourism as a driver of national and regional economic growth. The new arrangements reflect this by channeling earmarked funding for Regional Tourist Boards through England’s Regional Development Agencies.
Geoff Wilkinson, Chief Executive of South West Regional Development Agency (RDA), said: “I welcome the launch of VisitBritain as an important strategic commitment to the future of tourism across Britain. RDAs have supported the concept of VisitBritain right from the start because of the important wealth-creating potential of tourism to many regional economies, where it can contribute as much as 10 per cent to regional GDP.”
VisitBritain will have 450 staff, 60% of whom will be based overseas in Britain’s key tourism markets, and will receive a grant in aid from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport. For the 2003-4 financial year DCMS has confirmed funding of £35.5m for the promotion of Britain overseas as a tourist destination, and £14.1m to lead and co-ordinate the domestic marketing of England. Some of the England marketing funds will either be channeled through the RDAs or is dependent on matched funding from the private sector.