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BTN Spotlight: James Berresford, Chief Executive, VisitEngland

BTN Spotlight: James Berresford, Chief Executive, VisitEngland

Launched in April 2009, VisitEngland is responsible for steering the nation’s tourism strategy. BTN met Chief Executive, James Berresford, to find out his strategies for raising market share.

BTN: You launched in April 2009 – how has your first year and a half in operation been?
JB: I’m delighted to say we’ve made great strides in our first year and a half. In March we launched the first Strategic Framework for Tourism in England in ten years. This was created from an intense period of collaboration with the industry and was launched with their endorsement. The key objectives of the framework are: to increase England’s share of global markets; offer visitors compelling destinations of distinction, improve visitor connectivity and spread best practise. We are currently working on action plans to address seaside resorts, rural tourism, sustainability, business tourism as well as a new national marketing strategy and an Olympics strategy.

BTN: How do you work in partnership with VisitBritain to shape national tourism strategy?
JB: VisitEngland promotes England to the domestic market and to mature international markets such as Western Europe and North America.  The organisation represents the various compelling destinations of England and works hand in hand with the industry to maximize the industry’s best prospects for sustained growth. We work closely with VisitBritain to maximise marketing opportunities internationally especially in the emerging markets such as the BRIC countries. We will also be working with VisitBritain to maximise the many potential benefits that the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games offer the country.

(A rollercoaster ride at Blackpool)

BTN: How will the closure of regional development agencies change the way you operate?
JB: We are working with the Tourism Minister to provide solutions that will ensure tourism is supported throughout the country once the regional development agencies close.

BTN: Sport tourism is proving a big cash cow for England. Do you have any specific policy for developing this sector?
JB: Sports tourism offers England a great opportunity. We obviously have the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games coming up but in addition to that we have a whole decade of sport ahead. England’s ability to host world-class sporting events such as the Rugby Union and Rugby League World Cups, key tennis, athletics and equestrian events and, fingers crossed, the FIFA World Cup in 2018 help to attract those visitors who will travel the world for their sport. In addition we have recently launched specific quality assessment schemes for the Premier League football stadia and racecourses around England which are tourist attractions in their own right, as well as sporting venues and provide visitors with a great day out.

BTN: Which source markets offer you the greatest potential?
JB: From an international perspective, the BRIC countries offer exciting potential for us which VisitBritain focuses on our behalf. However, last year we had our best year in terms of leisure tourism from the domestic market. I still believe the domestic market offers huge potential for us. Last year certainly helped to showcase England as a holiday destination to many people who wouldn’t have usually taken a break at home, and this has provided us with an excellent foundation from which to forge further growth.

BTN: How do you think David Cameron’s new stance on tourism will help England? And which areas of policy need improvement?
JB: It was very encouraging to see the Prime Minister give a speech on tourism within his first hundred days in office. Tourism in this country will benefit from the support of government at this level. A crucial development is that both the Prime Minister and the Tourism Minister, John Penrose, clearly understand that tourism crosses over many government departments from transport to business. The Minister is working on his tourism strategy which amongst other things will tackle issues affecting tourism across Whitehall and will be launched at the end of the year.

(England prides itself on its family-friendly credentials)

BTN: How do you see England as a destination evolving over the next decade?
JB: I really believe that tourism in England has made great strides in terms of quality and value for money over the past decade. We’ve seen a renaissance in domestic tourism and a renewed appreciation by Brits especially of England as a holiday destination. 

Tourism is a hugely important economic driver and is one of but a few sectors that if properly supported can offer real growth potential. England in particular is a remarkable destination and a real powerhouse in UK tourism. It alone represents 84 per cent of the total UK tourism value, is worth £97 billion, and supports in excess of 2 million jobs.

VisitEngland launched the first Strategic Framework for Tourism in England in ten years in March. This strategy will support the industry in meeting its potential to grow 5 percent annually, over ten years, creating an additional 225,000 jobs and increasing tourism spend by £50 billion.

As the tourist board for England we are committed to growing domestic and international tourism and to meet the government’s goal to see the country rise up the league tables once again as one of the most desirable destinations in the world.

BTN: Which areas of improvement does the country need to make to improve market share?
JB: We have some areas around the country that offer an outstanding product however we cannot stand still.  There are clearly areas that need to be improved.  We’ve got to ensure that the welcome we offer is of the highest standard and consistent across the country. 

BTN: Which of your plans, developments and initiatives do you think have the most potential and why?
JB: The basis for our future lies within the Strategic Framework for Tourism in England.  This is our blueprint for growing the industry.  It has the buy-in and commitment from the industry, has been recently praised by the Tourism Minister and will ensure that the industry can meet its potential to grow 5 percent year-on-year over the next ten years.