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Interview: Tricia Warwick on the return of UK tourism

As the UK drops all Covid-19 travel restrictions, we talk to the director of VisitBritain for Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa

As VisitBritain APMEA Director, Tricia Warwick’s priorities for the region include developing commercial partnerships, providing regional market analysis to improve Britain’s competitive position overseas and driving inspiration and conversion to visit and explore Britain through consumer marketing.

As the UK prepares to open its borders to all holidaymakers, despite vaccination status, Connecting Travel caught up with Warwick to find out what the UK has in store for the GCC traveller this year – and why the Middle East so important to the UK travel market.

CONNECTING TRAVEL: Visit Britain’s new campaign, ‘Welcome to another side of Britain’, launched last month. What are the key messages?
TRICIA WARWICK: The £10 million campaign is putting the spotlight on Britain’s cities, hit hard by the absence of international visitors, as well as on messages of welcome and reassurance. It’s also capturing the major events this year, set to be global tourism draws, including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and ‘Unboxed,’ the UK-wide celebration of creativity, to drive tourism to Britain.

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CT:The campaign invites visitors to ‘experience another side of Britain’ – but what does that look like?
TW: Our iconic attractions are world-renowned, from Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle to The Lake District and Stonehenge, so our campaign is focusing on something a bit different, on another side of Britain. It tells the stories of our renowned heritage with a modern twist, profiling our buzzing contemporary culture and innovative food and drink scene, we are showing that Britain is full of fresh and exciting experiences to come and enjoy right now, from rooftop afternoon tea in Liverpool to sailing in a hot tub along the Thames River in London.

London

CT: Which inbound markets are most valuable to the UK?
TW: In terms of visitor spending, the USA is the UK’s most valuable inbound visitor market, worth £4.2 billion in 2019; 15% of all inbound spending. When considering all Gulf Coast countries combined, the GCC is the UK’s second most valuable inbound market, worth £2.6 billion in 2019. China, Germany and France are also among the UK’s most valuable inbound markets, worth £1.7 billion, £1.6 billion and £1.4 billion respectively to the economy in 2019.

CT: What are the UK’s biggest growth markets?
TW: When looking at growth markets, China, the GCC and India have been strong sources of growth for the UK when it comes to inbound tourism, as well as South Korea and South East Asia. From 2009 to 2019, inbound visits from China multiplied by seven times, and inbound spend by 10 times.

Inbound travel from the GCC to the UK also grew significantly in the decade before Covid. Inbound visits doubled when comparing 2009 and 2019, from 494,000 to 1.2 million, and inbound spend tripled, from £857 million to £2.6 billion

Inbound visits to the UK from India and South East Asia doubled in the decade from 2009-2019, as did visitor spending, while inbound visits and spend from South Korea tripled.

CT: What’s the breakdown of inbound travel for business and leisure from the Middle East to the UK?
TW: In 2019, 49% visits from the Middle East to the UK were for a holiday (780,000 visits, spending £1.7 billion), 32% were to visit friends and relatives (511,000 visits, spending £660 million), and 11% were for business (178,000 visits, spending £330 million).

CT:  How valuable are GCC expats in terms of visitor spending in the UK?
TW: In 2019, 21% of inbound visits from the GCC were made by UK nationals with these visitors spending, on average, £1,291 per visit; 85% more than the average visitor. They stayed for an average of 13 nights in the UK, six nights longer than average. In 2019, the total visitor spending by UK nationals from the GCC was £329 million. 

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CT:  You mentioned tourist-friendly events taking place in the UK in 2022? Can you tell us more about those?
TW: Yes, we have landmark royal anniversaries and the return of some favourite annual festivals, including the Hay Festival in May, Royal Ascot in June, and the Edinburgh International Festival and 75th annual Festival Fringe in August.

Major events drawing global attention include Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years since her accession. Public events during the Platinum Jubilee Weekend (2-5 June) will be the focal point, but the occasion will also be marked with experiences and exhibitions throughout the year, such as the Tower of London’s Superbloom display, the Platinum Jubilee Display at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the reopening of The Royal Mews, showing The Queen’s carriages, cars and horses.

For more information, visit www.visitbritain.com/gb/en/reasons-why-britains-brilliant-2022

 

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