BTA kicks off 'UKOK' drive

The Millennium Dome ... Britain's biggest tourist attraction last year.

The British tourism industry has joined forces to unveil a multimillion pound strategy to win overseas visitors back to the country.

Under the banner of 'UKOK' - unveiled by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell at the Tower of London - the international marketing campaign will feature Britain as the place to visit in 2002, encouraged by millions of pounds' worth of special travel and accommodation offers.

Targeted at seven prime overseas markets, the campaign has been created by the British Tourist Authority (BTA) and is supported by more than 1,000 UK tourism businesses, which have all come forward with special deals. The campaign will contribute to the recovery of at least half of the £2 billion lost last year by the £i3 billion inbound tourism industry.

BTA will spearhead the initiative with a £5m advertising campaign directing overseas customers to the website on which all the offers will be featured.

The campaign will feature the Queen's Golden Jubilee, the Commonwealth Games and other sports, as well as the attractions of Britain's countryside, cities and heritage. It will be supported by a raft of market-driven PR and marketing initiatives all carrying the 'UKOK' banner.

The BTA said it would focus all its available resources for the rest of the year on reinforcing the 'UKOK' message.

V&A, Anglesey Sea Zoo and Kildrummy Castle Hotel are taking advantage of this opportunity to directly target prospective visitors from overseas.

BTA chairman David Quarmby said the campaign would provide visitors with reassurance, while allowing even very small companies to reach the overseas markets they need to help their businesses recover.

Meanwhile, London's Millennium Dome, widely criticised as a white elephant, was Britain's most popular paid attraction during its year of operation in 2000, the English Tourism Council has said.

The Dome, which was built to mark the new millennium and which featured in the opening scenes of the James Bond film "The World is Not Enough", attracted over 6.5 million visitors.

This was nearly double the figure for the second-placed London Eye, the giant ferris wheel on the banks of the Thames river.