VisitBritain, the body that promotes Britain as a tourist destination, has come under fire for acting like a “commercial organisation” and for not developing a strong enough brand.
The criticisms come in a new National Audit Office report that canvassed the opinion of players in the tourist industry.
VisitBritain teams up with several large travel and leisure companies for campaigns, and the report states that “parts of the industry sometimes perceive VisitBritain as a ‘publicly funded rival’ in that they may have to compete against a campaign based around cut price offers from rival operators.”
The tourism industry also wants VisitBritain to pay more attention to developing “a distinctive and credible national brand”, and points to New Zealand’s “100 per cent pure New Zealand” promotions as an example.
VisitBritain spokesman Bernard Donoghue says commercial partnerships are necessary because the organisation’s annual government grant has stood still for nine years at &£35.5m. He adds that VisitBritain did try to work “with a variety of different companies from the small to the large”.
He says the organisation has begun work on developing the brand, but that Britain is a more complicated proposition than countries such as New Zealand.
The report did praise VisitBritain for raising in-bound tourism numbers – during the first nine months of this year, visitor numbers were up 12 per cent on the same period in 2003.