VisitBritain features Olympics and Scotland

Durham: more visitors are looking to escape to the countryside

BRITAIN is the Middle East’s leading in-bound market in Europe attracting more than half a million UK visitors in 2007 alone, and although nearly 20 per cent of travellers head to the region for business, many often extend their stay for leisure purposes, according to VisitBritain, the UK’s official tourism agency VisitBritain. 
Top 10 destinations in the UK were London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Bath, Cornwall, Manchester, Liverpool, York and Stratford-upon-Avon.
VisitBritain and VisitLondon are focusing on the tourism benefits for 2012, when the Summer Olympic Games take place from July 27 to August 12 and the Paralympic Games take place from August 29 to September 9.
VisitLondon will be announcing and launching a number of new initiatives and benefits for international associations and conference planners. The organisation’s role is to promote London, targeting domestic and overseas leisure and business visitors as well as Londoners, and works in partnership with the mayor, the London Development Agency and the tourism industry in London.
According to Carol Maddison, marketing manager VisitBritain UAE, a total of 22.3 million visitors came to the country from January to August 2008. Of that, the Middle East contributed 761,000 visitors, meaning 2.3 per cent of the total. Top visitor markets were the UAE with187,000 visitors spending £189 million, Saudi Arabia with 82,000 visitors spending £134 million and Kuwait with 64,000 visitors, contributing £194 million to Britain’s economy.
The Middle East in total contributed £960 million to the country’s tourism growth strategy for 2007. Asked if there had been a drop in tourist arrivals or spend with the economic recession, Maddison said, “It’s too early to say - year to date visitor numbers are in line with expectations, but it will be interesting to see what happens to figures for the final part of the year.”
VisitBritain has witnessed an increase in traffic to its website in 2008.  Research has shown that the majority of Arab travellers use the internet when planning a holiday.
“However, they ultimately book their travel through a travel agent or airline holiday department. There is a burgeoning expatriate population who are not only researching their trip on VB’s website but also choosing to book their air tickets, hotels, car hire and ancillary products online.”
The tourism body is promoting UK as a high end destination via a campaign “Journeys of a Lifetime’, designed to present the very best of British luxury product.
“The campaign is a collection of the finest hotels and spas in the UK set in inspirational settings bundled with certain lifestyle elements such as high end golf, shopping, spas, cars, fashion, antiques, etc.  The campaign will focus on projecting inspiration for unique holidays and experiences. Where possible, it will be tied together with specific events,” she said.
VisitBritain will be working in collaboration with VisitScotland to promote ‘Homecoming Scotland 2009’, an initiative created by the Scottish government to celebrate Scotland’s unique contributions to the world. A programme of about 150 events will be held throughout 2009, kicking off with Burns Night (January 25) when the 250th birthday anniversary of the Scottish poet Robert Burns will be celebrated, and continuing through to St Andrews Day (November 30).  VisitBritain will be launching an online training programme for the travel trade to increase awareness about areas of Britain outside London. It also has brochures on the whole of Britain and showcases a multitude of holiday activities that are free of charge for the travel trade. VisitBritain also organises yearly fam trips for travel agents so they gain a first hand experience of the country.