Asian countries on UK’s tourism “hit-list”
The UK and Ireland is seeing significant growth in visitor arrivals from the Asia, and several of the region’s countries form part of a “global hit-list” for the UK’s tourism push.
Speaking to Travel Daily today, VisitBritain’s overseas network director, Keith Beecham, revealed that in the 12 months to 31 March 2012, visitor arrivals from Asia Pacific (including the Middle East) increased 3% year-on-year. Arrivals from China however, jumped 10% in the same period, while visitation from other Northeast Asian nations surged 12%. Arrivals from Australasia and Southeast Asia (both +5%) also exceeded the average.
In an interview on the sidelines of the Destination Britain & Ireland (DEBI) event, which is currently being held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bangkok, Beecham told Travel Daily that China, India and Japan all form part of the tourism board’s list of 21 priority markets, which account for 75% of all business to the UK.
“Arrivals from China increased 34% last year, and that followed a 20% rise the previous year, while Indian arrivals are expected to hit half a million within five years. Both of these countries also have a higher-than-average visitor spend,” Beecham revealed. “We also saw a 6% rise in Japanese outbound last year, following a few years of decline,” he added.
VisitBritain is currently in the second year of a four-year, GBP100 million (US$161 million) global marketing campaign to boost visitor arrivals to the UK. Arrivals for 2012 are expected to be around 30 million – similar to 2011 – and while this year’s London Olympics is expected to have an impact on arrivals, Beecham said that it is still unclear exactly what the effect would be.
“There are several different views on Olympic visits, and nobody has a crystal ball. Feedback from this event (DEBI 2012) indicates that there may be some bringing forward of travel or a delay until after the Games. What we are likely to see is a late booking market,” Beecham said. He added however, that in Asian markets that need visas for travel to the UK, late bookings would be more problematic.
On the issue of visas, Beecham said VisitBritain was working with the UK Border Agency to develop ways of improving visa processing. “In China for example, people would say the situation has improved, while in other countries we still have some way to go,” Beecham said.
Commenting on the UK’s unpopular Airport Passenger Duty (APD), Beecham told Travel Daily that VisitBritain would rather the tax didn’t exist, but that he understood why the government had implemented it. “It’s a tough time for the economy and there is a funding gap. It’s understandable that the government is trying to reduce the deficit,” he said. “But we’d rather there was no APD and we’re providing evidence to the government about its economic impact.”
DEBI 2012 – a B2B initiative that connects UK-based travel companies with Asian travel agents and tour operators – is the ninth edition of VisitBritain’s annual global marketing event. Forty-six percent of this year’s Asian buyers are attending the event for the first time.