Visit Britain’s deputy CEO Patricia Yates will be stepping into the top role on Friday, following current CEO Sally Balcombe’s departure.
Yates takes the helm at a crucial time for Visit Britain, as the world reopens and travel begins to rebound.
Tourism is the UK’s third-largest service export and a major part of British trade, supporting hundreds of thousands of small businesses and employing more than 3.1 million people across the UK.
During a recent catch up with Travel Weekly Yates said it is crucial to drive back value as quickly as possible and support the industry.
“Our priority is making sure we invest in countries that will drive the fastest growth for tourism,” she said.
“This is one of the most difficult years to predict in terms of what will influence travellers and how; will people be worried about their finances? Or, is the uncertainty of war and the rising price of oil going to impact their decisions? How are new customers looking at sustainability?
“We have to be more flexible, make investment decisions at short notice and be willing to pivot.”
Visit Britain’s latest forecast estimated 21.1 million inbound tourism visits to the UK this year, 52 per cent of the 2019 level.
Australia is the UK’s fifth most valuable source market globally, representing its 10th largest inbound market but staying twice as long as the average visitor and spending double the global average.
With all travel restrictions now lifted, 2022 is a landmark year for events in the UK, from the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games ( 28 July – 8 Aug) and Visit Britain is out in full force among international markets with a £10 million ($17.5 million) Welcome to another side of Britain campaign.
As well as highlighting messages of welcome and reassurance, the campaign is promoting the major events this year, set to be global tourism draws, offering visitors once-in-a-lifetime experiences they can only have in the UK.
“It’s encouraging people to come and see Britain’s icons, but then showing them how can how you can experience those differently,” she said.
“History and heritage we’ve had for 100s of years, and we’ll have it for another 100 years. So why should you come now? Telling that story is really important.”
VisitBritain is also working with travel agents to ensure that British programmes are thriving and Britain’s tourism offer is being sold internationally.
“It’s not just about us promoting a destination, it’s making sure that agents are selling it,” Yates said.
“We know there’s a huge pent up demand and people absolutely want to travel. Our research shows 80 per cent of people want to travel internationally and 50 per cent of people haven’t booked so we would regard that as a real opportunity to get them to come to Britain.
“So working with agents to make sure we can give them great content, and that we are pushing things that agents can actually sell is crucial.”
Yates said sustainability will be a thread through all this activity, with Visit Britain championing a sustainable tourism strategy for England, working to harness the industry’s collective impact.
“When we talk about sustainability, we’re not just talking about carbon neutral, we’re talking about economic sustainability,” she continued.
“And that’s about how visitors, residents and tourism businesses coexist happily. So we are looking at, for example, getting people away from the honeypot and spreading the load – getting people into less-visited areas, and extending the season.
“It’s also about working with businesses on drawing together sustainable trails that people can book.
“There’s been a huge resurgence, I think, of local foods and, and keeping it local so we want to tell that local story more colourfully and effectively.”