This is the third year that the HBM was organised in association with ETOA (European Tour Operators Association) and with 228 international buyers attending from 22 of UK’s key inbound markets, it is now the biggest trade event hosted by VisitBritain, the national tourism agency for marketing Britain overseas.
Last year Britain witnessed its best year for inbound tourism, with around 32.9 million people visiting and spending £21 billion. Sandie Dawe, CEO, VisitBritain stated, “It’s our ambition to welcome 40 million visitors annually by 2020, with 2014 kicking off that pursuit with a record 2.4 million, a rise of eight per cent from the same period in 2013.”
The venue of HBM this year, Wembley Stadium has played host to hundreds of some of the biggest names in sport and entertainment. The home of English football, the 90,000 seat stadium sees regular football matches including the FA Cup Final, the most famous domestic cup competition in the world. It has also seen the final of EURO ’96, and the 1966 final of the FIFA World Cup all played on its pitch. The legendary player Pelé has said, “Wembley is the cathedral of football. It is the capital of football and it is the heart of football.” Inside the meetings space of this sporting venue, HBM 2014 had over 245 delegates from 210 UK companies on the floor and a total of nearly 8,500 appointments from morning to evening.
VisitBritain’s current focus is the design and delivery of its biggest ever marketing programme – the GREAT Britain campaign – which looks to attract visitors to the UK over the four years from 2011-2015. This four-year, £100 million match-funded marketing campaign is running in key markets globally. VisitBritain has also received funding to mount an image campaign in selected priority markets.
Dawe informs, “As part of this, we have just launched a new TV and interactive online advert to inspire the world to choose Britain for their next holiday. ‘Sounds of GREAT Britain’ is a £2.5 million global film campaign, running across key markets like the USA, Brazil, China, India, Gulf states and throughout Europe. We are also launching soon ‘Countryside is GREAT’ series. The new campaign will roll out in early 2015.”
Speaking exclusively to Express TravelWorld, she said, “The demography of Indian visitors to Great Britain is changing. There are now more first-time Indian visitors to the UK. Also we have seen an increase in the number of younger independent travellers, not only from the big cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata but also from the tier II cities.” She attributed this to the increased connectivity of not only British Airways but also Indian and Middle Eastern airlines. Passengers on BRIC routes showed a 6.9 per cent increase in 2013. While London continues to remain the main draw, other gateways like Edinburgh, Manchester and Bristol too have shown increased traffic.
Currently the tourism economy is worth £127 billion to Britain and forecast to grow £257 billion by 2025 – 10 per cent of the UK’s GDP. In 2013, VisitBritain launched a growth strategy for inbound tourism to Britain, with an ambition to reach 40 million visitors by 2020. The strategy shows how aligning marketing and government policy can deliver an economic legacy, building on Britain’s successful hosting of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Supporting some three million jobs throughout the UK in 2013, tourism accounted for one third of net increase in UK jobs between 2010 and 2012 (175,000 additional jobs) – and forecast to grow to 3.7 million jobs by 2025.
London remains a key destination for inbound visitors to the UK, with 15.5 million visitors spending time in the capital in 2012. The rest of England attracted 12.8 million inbound visitors, Scotland 2.2 million visitors and Wales 900,000. Some 1.8 million visitors from overseas made ‘day trips’ to the UK. Provisional data for the first three quarters of 2013 show that visits to London grew by 12 per cent, the rest of England by seven per cent, Scotland by eight per cent and Wales by four per cent.
Looking at a 2014 PWC forecast, there will be a two per cent increase in room supply outside London (8,200 rooms) while in London an additional 5,600 rooms are set to open, representing a four per cent rise in the number of available rooms in 2013. PWC also forecast that there will be growth in occupancy rates in 2014, up 0.4 per cent in the regions to 71 per cent and up 0.9 per cent in London to 82 per cent.
In terms of seat capacity during 2013, Heathrow handled a record number of passengers of 72.3 million. It was followed by Gatwick (the world’s busiest single runway airport, with 35.4 mlln), Manchester (20.68 mlln), London Stansted (17.8 mlln), Edinburgh (9.8 mlln), London Luton (9.7 mlln), Birmingham (9.1mlln), Glasgow (7.4 mlln), Bristol (6.1 mlln) and Newcastle (4.4 mlln), according to figures from the Civil Aviation Authority.
Most of the buyers from India were attending HBM for the first time and were happy with the pre-fixed appointments. This year a new format was followed where the buyers were sitting at the tables and the suppliers visited them instead of vice versa. What did the Indian delegation feel about this format? “It’s a good format. However the time allotted was very less and there were too many appointments to attend. Thus mashing it all up at the end and actually it became difficult to remember the conversations held,” opined Samir Kachwala, senior manager, personalised holidays, leisure travel (outbound), Thomas Cook India. “It’s a good format which helped us in focusing on the appointments rather finding the tables of the next appointments,” felt Ashish Chitnis, general manager sales – leisure, Mercury Travels.
Manav Jaggi, GM – Europe products, MakeMyTrip.com agreed that it was well managed and appointments were perfect on time. According to Jay Bhatia, director, Tulsidas Khimji Holidays, “This is an excellent system, wherein it was easy for the buyers to communicate and spend special 12 minutes on a one to one basis without any disturbance.”
Mahendra Vakharia, managing director, Pathfinders Holidays also agreed that this was a nice format and that it should be continued. Shruti Bhogle, senior executive – VIP division, Kuoni India opined, “This way we had our appointments in place and we met with only those suppliers who we needed to meet. And also the open appointments allowed us to meet other suppliers who were not on our appointment list.” Most of them took back fruitful business learnings. Kachwala met quite a few new hoteliers/DMCs and excursion providers which would be difficult sitting in an office. “Here we have a face to the co mpany we would be working with. It’s an opportunity to look at local market offerings for our clients visiting Britain,” he said. Jaggi added that now it’s time to take them on board and to benefit from it.
Bhatia agreed, “I gained fantastic insight and knowledge on various new as well as existing products in the UK market. It has tremendously helped the business.” Srikanth G, senior manager, Riya Travels pointed out, “We came to know about unexplored destinations and also how to market those destinations to our customers back in India.” For Bhogle too it was definitely a learning experience. “In future I can tap these suppliers to grow company’s business,” she added. However, quite a few of them like Chitnis felt that some of the suppliers were not briefed on the Indian market and did not have products for the market.