The tourist board today published its 2012 annual review, outlining what it calls a ‘spectacular year’ for inbound tourism – the 12 million visits marked a 5 per cent rise year-on-year, with records broken in six of the past 12 months.
“This country’s tourism offer is about much more than growth in visitor numbers,” said VisitBritain’s chairman Christopher Rodriques upon the launch of the review. “Tourism offers not just jobs but careers for life. It employs young people who are now in training to become Ambassadors for Britain, welcoming visitors to their hotels, attractions and shops – taking on the mantle of the Games Makers.
“Tourism is also a key contributor to a country's image overseas – it influences not just whether people come for a week’s holiday but also what they think of us as a nation, whether they choose to invest in British business and whether they relocate their families to live here and their companies to operate here. Tourism is soft power in action.”
A central focus of the year was to use the Games to generate worldwide coverage of Britain’s attractions, a strategy that has resulted in 14,000 positive print and broadcast stories about the UK in the world’s media in the first six months of this financial year - the equivalent of over £1.5bn in advertising.
VisitBritain’s work as an organisation overseas also contributed £503m to the UK economy in 2011-12, while its match-funded marketing with partners has resulted in additional bookings worth £89m.
The review concludes with a look into the future, which outlines that the US and Europe remain our biggest source of visitors but face the fiscal cliff and continuing Eurozone uncertainty respectively.
VisitBritain’s best estimate is that the volume of international tourism to Britain will continue to grow, by 3 per cent, meaning almost one million extra visitors will come to the UK in 2013. And their spend is forecast to reach £19bn for the first time, representing further growth of 2.5 per cent.
Rodriques believes it is the job of tourism and hospitality businesses to ‘keep the extraordinary spirit of the London 2012 Olympics alive in our visitor welcome’.
“Our job now is to turn aspiration into action,” he said. “And the best way to do that is to continue the exceptional levels of collaboration between the industry, the public sector and the Government that we saw in 2012.”