Visit Britain to lure tourists with shopping

Following a quick recovery after this summer’s foiled airline bomb plot, Visit Britain is planning a slew of marketing campaigns for the months ahead, reports SHALU CHANDRAN
Christina Aguilera at the opening of the Harrods Summer Sale a few years ago.

BRITAIN is planning to target Arabs with a campaign that highlights shopping over the winter, besides seeking to raise awareness of destinations outside the UK, according to a senior official at the country’s tourism board.

“Shopping is one of the key triggers for Arabs choosing a destination, so we are working on a shopping campaign with a very high-profile, upmarket London-based retail partner which will appeal to the Arab market’s love for designer brands,” says Carol Maddison, regional marketing manager, Visit Britain. The campaign will likely be extended outside London.
“In the new financial year, beginning April, we are looking to do a Britain campaign that will focus on areas outside of UK, and families will be among the specific target groups.”
In addition, she says, the board is looking at targeting the youth market with a summer-school-type programme, ‘about six to eight weeks of intensive summer language courses with a UK-based educational company.
The board will tie up with travel distributors to ensure effective dissemination of the products, says Maddison. “Normally when we do campaigns, we do tie up with tour operators so that we can put a book-able package in the market, because as a national tourism board, we are an information provider, we sell Britain, but we don’t have such have a product in itself. So, we fix up with an airline partner or a tour operator/ travel agent and put a package together with them and then it’s something that someone can actually buy.
So instead of actually promoting Scotland, we promote Scotland with a package that people can actually go and visit.”
From the Middle East, Britain had 385,000 visitors last year, with a total spend of £680 million ($1.27 billion), about 12 per cent over the previous year despite a slight dip in July 2005 following the subway attacks.
The average length of stay for visitor from the region is usually around 13 days, which is longer than visitors from the rest of the world, says Maddison.
In terms of new trends, she says the main holiday period accounts for a fair share of traffic, but more travellers are taking short breaks throughout the year, “like when the kids have holidays or couples who like to go for a shopping weekend – so there is a bit of both, which is good because it is part of our aim is to encouraging seasonal spreads, to get people to travel to the UK outside the peak summer months, and to get people to travel outside London.”
To promote the UK beyond the greater London area, the board is working with airlines and travel agents to focus on areas are directly linked to cities in the region. “We have been trying to make it easier for Middle Eastern travellers to focus on areas where there are direct routes. Emirates now have 91 flights to the UK and they fly not only to London, but to Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow as well. So, we have been pushing the Lake District as well. We have also been pushing Scotland and the feedback that we have received from trade today is that there is a lot more enquiries to Scotland,” says Maddison. “Our campaigns reach out to the entire region through travel agencies like Kanoo, who have offices throughout the region and they ensure that our campaigns are heard throughout the region.”
Within the region, Maddison says Visit Britain targets the entire demographic mix, expatriates and Arabs alike. “We pretty much market to anyone that has the potency to travel to the UK, although we do have plans to do some targeted Arabic campaigns in Arabic for the Arabs and their families.”
On whether tourist forecasts were affected this summer, following the foiled air terror plot, Maddison says the country obviously did experience “a slight travel disruption in August, sort of a short term dip”, but that bounced back quickly. “I think some people did have to postpone their travel, but they did travel eventually and a lot of people were already in UK, on their holiday. But basically people were very confident with the way that the UK deals with threats like this, they are quite positive about the way security is handled. I guess people realize now that it is a global phenomenon and just might happen anywhere and people saw that it was dealt with – carefully, communicated to the rest of the world, the restrictions and what was allowed and most of the feedback that we got from the market intelligence was that people were happy with the way it was dealt with.”