Sally Balcombe, chief executive of VisitBritain and VisitEngland, explains how engaging with businesses across the tourism sector is vital to pushing the domestic agenda
It’s been a busy few months at VisitEngland and VisitBritain as we bring the two organisations closer together to grow tourism with greater coordination across the industry.
In recent weeks, we met more than 800 industry colleagues up and down the country during the regional engagement programme to discuss the £40 million Discover England Fund.
This fund is for building world-class ‘bookable’ tourism products that meet the demands of international customers while also benefiting domestic visitors by providing an integrated tourism experience from ‘start to finish’.
Meeting the industry
The sessions set out our ambitions for the fund’s delivery, the high-level criteria for potential bidders to consider and suggested timeframes for its phased implementation.
It was a fantastic opportunity to network with tourism businesses as we seek greater collaboration across the private and public sectors, and the regions, to grow English tourism as part of this once-in-a-generation opportunity.
We received valuable feedback from the travel trade, destination management organisations, transport and attraction providers, and local authorities across England, which we’ve published on our website.
We are now feeding into the final development of the fund’s bidding criteria, which will be available in May. You can keep up to date via our website at visitbritain.org/discover-england-fund-overview.
The GREAT campaign
While product development is a major part of VisitEngland’s work, other priorities include the launch next month of the latest version of our hugely successful ‘Holidays at Home are GREAT’ domestic tourism campaign.
The £2.5 million campaign will use stunning images of the amazing experiences on offer across the UK to inspire more people to take holidays at home.
As well as showcasing the very best of destination UK, the digital, TV, print and outdoor marketing campaign will also invite people to upload images of their own memorable moments using the hashtag #OMGB.
We want to encourage more people to take their holidays and short breaks in the UK so that selling domestic holidays continues to be good business for travel agents.
Engaging with businesses
As I write, the latest domestic tourism statistics for 2015 are just in showing strong growth in England with spend up 8% on 2014 figures to £19.6 billion. These results echo the growth we are seeing internationally.
Last year set a record for inbound tourism to the UK with 35.8 million visits, 4% up on 2014. Comparing growth over the past five years shows that there were six million more visits in 2015 than 2010, an increase of 20%.
These figures are a tangible endorsement of the growing importance of tourism to the UK economy, one of our fastest-growing export industries and one of the most globally competitive.
We want our nations and regions to be at the top of people’s list of must-visit destinations.
That is why engaging and collaborating with businesses and organisations across our country’s tourism landscape is our top priority, as we work together to drive growth in tourism and spread its economic benefits across the whole of the UK.
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