The Role of VisitBritain

We welcome the increased collaboration between VisitBritain and UKTI, particularly the very successful ‘GREAT’ marketing campaign. We believe that this collaboration should be extended in the coming years. One tangible way for VisitBritain and UKTI’s partnership to be deepened, over and above the ‘Great marketing campaign’, would be for the Chairman or Chief Executive of VisitBritain to join the Board of UKTI as a permanent member.

It would be ideal if the VisitBritain team were to continue to work in a much more integrated way with the teams responsible for inward investment to achieve an aligned approach to business and leisure tourism.

By itself, this further collaboration should have no effect on whether tourism remains a responsibility of the DCMS. Although some have argued for tourism to be the responsibility of the BIS, we are of the opinion that what matters most is effective leadership, integration and alignment across Whitehall.

Devolution

In a devolved environment, VisitBritain already has the task of collaborating with VisitScotland, VisitEngland, VisitWales, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and London & Partners.

This may make some sense to those of us inside the UK but to the investor, decision-maker or traveller from outside the UK it can be confusing. Appeals for match funding from and collaboration with the private sector would work more effectively if the objectives for tourism promotion and marketing were defined more clearly across the UK and ambiguities avoided. The whole area of collaborative and efficient partnership needs to be regularly reviewed and debated. We see a lot of potential in simplifying and setting out a clear pathway for the Visit agencies, local authorities, DMOs and LEPs, all of which vie for attention, funding and engagement with the private sector to varying degrees of success. The proposed introduction of Tourism Business Improvement Districts, potentially from 2015, may only add to the confusion. The opportunity should be taken, whenever possible, of simplifying and streamlining this complex multiagency approach.

Repositioning VisitBritain as a more powerful and ambitious organisation would help. Whilst recognising that its core funding should continue to come from the government, we want to see it grow and develop as a powerful champion of the sector inside Whitehall and this is more likely to be achieved by further developing its ties with UKTI. Although pleased with the extension of funding for the ‘GREAT’ campaign, we are concerned that the core funding of VisitBritain is being reduced. Bearing in mind the economic contribution and levels of employment outlined the hospitality and tourism sector must be considered of equal stature to financial services, pharmaceuticals, life sciences, the aerospace and automotive sectors when Ministers identify and invest in growth sectors. Seen in this context, and bearing in mind the support which other national governments offer their hospitality and tourism sectors, levels of funding for VisitBritain remain extremely modest and in need of urgent review.

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