Stop this tourist disinformation

It is a shame that Lucy Barrett’s article (MW last week) shows such a confused understanding of the marketing campaigns that contributed to the recovery of British tourism last year.

She misses a basic distinction in her reference to “yet another image makeover”: the difference between a new name to reflect a new organisation (VisitBritain) and new campaigns to react to changing market conditions, which often run simultaneously in different overseas markets (UK OK, Only in Britain).

We are surprised and disappointed by her suggestion that BTA (now VisitBritain) was heavily criticised for its handling of crises such as foot and mouth and the World Trade Centre attacks – hardly events of our own making.

Quite the opposite was in fact true. In November, the European Travel Commission praised the Only in Britain campaign, estimating it had earned the industry as many as 500,000 visits from the US alone and at least $1bn (&£640m).

It concluded that Britain had made “the greatest effort by far of any European country to rebuild US traffic through promotion with print and TV advertising… and if borne out, Britain may provide a model for action for the rest of Europe.”

These comments were borne out: Britain saw rapid growth in tourism compared to most other European countries last year. It was among only three European countries to see any increase in visitors from the US.

It is widely recognised at home and overseas that the unique partnership efforts of Government, tourist boards and the industry throughout 2001 and 2002 turned the situation around and directly contributed to an increase of six per cent in overseas visitor numbers and of four per cent in spend in 2002. This was at a time when many other destinations were showing no improvement, or even decline, in visitor numbers.

What’s more, in the final quarter of 2002, US visitor numbers to Britain outperformed the same quarter in 2000, proving that recovery was gathering pace as the year went on and as the Only in Britain campaign rolled out.

The new VisitBritain organisation now has the opportunity to apply this proven marketing expertise to the home market. We are confident that there is huge potential to develop here and hope that the marketing press, along with the industry, will wait to see the results before making further judgement.

Orla Farren

Corporate PR manager

VisitBritain

London W6

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