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Rediscovering a Great destination

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Destination Britain APMEA is VisitBritain’s flagship travel trade event for this market which accounts for 28 per cent of UK’s tourism revenue. The last decade has seen the number of visitors growing from APMEA by almost 30 per cent. The year 2012 saw 4.2 million visitors from the region who spent GBP 5.3 billion. The 2020 growth strategy for VisitBritain envisages arrival of 40 million visitors and GBP 31.5 billion spend. Of the total nine million extra visitors from across the world, two million are expected to be from APMEA. This would also create 200,000 extra jobs in the UK.

Tourism is among the top five industries in the UK. The Great campaign launched worldwide targets 4.6 million additional visitors. While the campaign is for the whole world, the budgets are only for select countries (five) involving PR, B2B, social media and consumer marketing. “Consumer campaign is not done in every market. Mumbai and New Delhi are two of the main cities in the world where this has been done. The industry is partnering with us in this campaign, in India and other countries. We have to work with our travel partners in India and create products which will motivate the travellers,” said Keith Beecham, director, overseas network, VisitBritain. He added that there are 500 BritAgents in India out of 5,000 worldwide. The programme is online and Indian travel professionals can study at their own pace.

India is one of VisitBritain’s fastest growing markets and has the highest number of visitors compared to the rest of the BRIC economies. Sumathi Ramanathan, regional manager, APAC & Middle East, VisitBritain pointed out that there is a lot of investment going into the BRIC markets, and India is the top performing BRIC market. “The British government is investing a lot of time and money in India, not only in terms of tourism but bilateral relationship, trade and investments. We are averaging about 350,000 visits at the moment but we have the potential to grow the market better. The airline links are very good,” she said. Visit Britain’s campaign with British Airways has worked very well in the Indian market. Ramanathan informed that VisitBritain has signed a new GBP two million partnership with Emirates, a significant portion of which will go into India. Besides London, Emirates provides direct route (via Dubai) into regional gateways of Britain – Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow. “We have got a fantastic opportunity to focus on the regional routes of UK. Eg Using Glasgow as a base we can promote the Scottish Highlands. The Whiskey Trails are extremely popular with the Indian market,” she added.

Beyond London

With good flight connectivity to many places in England there is increasing interest for areas like the Lake Districts, Yorkshire, Cotswolds, Oxfordshire. Reem Khokhar, regional manager – APAC, Visit England mentioned that most people want to stay in the city and then experience the quintessential British countryside. Day breaks are popular. For repeat travellers many literary icons that people associate with are interesting – for example this year is the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen, so there are many events being organised at places associated with her. “There is a niche audience for this but a lot of us have grown up with British authors so such places have interest for Indians. Agatha Christie for instance is from the Devon and Cornwall region so Torquay where she is from has an annual Agatha Christie Festival. Many Indians are not aware of the timings of these festivals or the fact that these famous authors were associated with these places, and that is something we are trying to create awareness for FIT leisure, and repeat travellers,” said Khokhar. There is a lot of scope for literary tours – DH Lawrence, Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, Beatrix Potter. Sporting events is also another area of interest particularly among corporate groups, which can take visitors to destinations outside London.

For Indian visitors, London though will always remain popular. In 2012 India was on the 16th place in number of visitors to London. In spend they were placed at the 19th position. Jo Geneen, PR manager, London & Partners remarked that while the visitor numbers were down by two per cent, the spend was up by six per cent. “London has a great proposition for repeat visitors. It is important for us to show the new products in London so that people keep coming back,” she stated. The Shard opened this year and visitors can see the view from the 72nd floor. The newly opened ME London Hotel has become very popular. The Olympic Park will be open to visitors from July and host many rock concerts, pop concerts, sporting events, community activities, etc.

Scotland is another destination of high interest among Indian visitors. Many travel agents in India have already enrolled for the Scot Agent programme and that shows the interest of the Indian travel trade. “It is important for us to educate the travel trade and travellers. There are many high end accommodations in Edinburgh, which is just an hour’s flight from London. Self drive is also becoming popular with Indian consumers,” stated Andrew Moffat, international PR – emerging markets & Australasia. Glasgow and Aberdeen are important business tourism hubs. Edinburgh and Glasgow are second only to London in the UK in terms of the number of international conferences hosted. Scotland has been celebrating focus years – Year of Food & Drink (2010), Year of Active Scotland (2011) and Year of Creative Scotland (2012). 2013 is the Year of Natural Scotland. “In terms of new interests for the Indian market there are some high end resorts that have opened up, besides there is golf tourism, and events,” he informed.

Visit Wales has been working closely with VisitBritain to raise awareness of the destination in the Indian market. “We are working very much focused on the travel trade because we understand the importance of the travel trade in the market. We are looking in particular at tour operators we are already working with to promote Wales and include the destination in their itinerary. We hosted a FAM trip in 2012 for some main tour operators from India,” said Clare Dwight, product marketing manager, Visit Wales. A Wales module of the BritAgent programme is also being developed, which will be launched later in the year in the Indian market. Operators and agents can have very particular information about Wales, itinerary ideas and how to put the product together. The travel trade website of Wales has a lot of resources available for travel agents worldwide, including India. Among the new highlights, the Wales Coast Path is becoming popular. New tours and trails have also been launched. “Next year is the anniversary of Dylan Thomas and there will be many related events, which would be of interest to Indian travellers,” stated Dwight.

Buyers speak

Most Indian travel agents attending Destination Britain APMEA averred that they are more interested in selling tours outside London, which is already a highly sold destination. Talking about the new ways to sell UK, not specifically London, Kapil Berera, managing director, Astral Travels said, “We are looking at the Lake Districts or the north part of England and Scotland. We are very keen to have multiple options for exploring different parts of UK. What comes to my mind is how to reinvent in selling Britain differently.” According to him the seminars on Scotland and Birmingham were very educative.

Kolkata based Prashant Das Binnany, director, Discovery Holidays is also looking to promote other destinations in the UK, apart from London, which he thinks his clients will enjoy – for instance the Lake District and Scotland. “There are a lot of high-end clients who visit London, they would love to take a weekend off to go to Scotland for golf,” he said.

Jyoti Mayal, director, New Airways Travel in Delhi has been selling the destination for a long time now, was keen to get information regarding conferencing in the UK. “The good companies from India are now looking at Europe for conferences. The UK is an area to explore,” said Mayal pointing out that the above average class and elite clients want to visit places where they can experience luxury in a big way and do something different.

Attending Destination Britain for the first time, Saravanan P, proprietor, Viking Tours & Travels from Chennai is looking at taking smaller groups travelling in small bus for experiencing UK and he felt that the buyer-seller meet has been an eye opener for him.

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