Following recent statistics showing that one third of the new jobs created in Britain between 2009 and 2011 came from tourism, VisitBritain has launched its 2012 annual review, outlining what it was able to achieve for tourism and the United Kingdom economy in 2012 and how it will build on this extraordinary year in 2013 and beyond.
Inbound tourism is one of Britain’s business great success stories. It is the nation’s third biggest earner of foreign exchange – during the past year it has contributed £18.7 billion to Britain’s economy, a 5 per cent rise in nominal terms and a record. In six of the past 12 months, Britain has welcomed a record number of holiday visitors from overseas, meaning around 12 million international visitors have chosen Britain as a holiday destination.
A central focus of the year was to use the 2012 Summer Olympics in London 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 £1.5 billion in advertising.
VisitBritain’s work as an organisation overseas has also contributed £503 million to the UK economy in 2011 and 2012, while its match-funded marketing with partners has resulted in additional bookings worth £89 million.
At a time when Britain needs growth, international tourism remains buoyant – it has increased by 3 per cent in volume and 8 per cent in value since May 2010 – with the number of people crossing international borders set to pass the one billion mark for the first time this year. Tourism, both domestic and international, is the country’s fifth largest employer, supporting 2.6 million jobs and contributing £115 billion to the economy and in the past two years tourism has accounted for a third of all new employment in the UK. “This country’s tourism offer is about much more than growth in visitor numbers,” said Christopher Rodrigues, chairman of VisitBritain. “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.”
“2012 has shown just what Britain can offer. It has re-energised our image overseas and triggered the desire to visit our country. Our job now is to turn aspiration into action. 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. We also need to keep the extraordinary spirit of the Games Makers alive in our visitor welcome”.
Visitor figures this year have offered a good foundation for growth, and VisitBritain said it expected that despite displacement concerns at the beginning of the year, inbound tourism in 2012 will show growth in the value of visits by up to 6 per cent.
2013 visitor numbers are inevitably uncertain. The United States and Europe remain the UK’s 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 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 £19 billion for the first time, representing growth of 2.5 per cent.