Why welcome is important

Welcome Image
A great welcome

‘Welcome’ is the term used to describe the experience provided to tourists before, at arrival and during their visit to a country. It is an area where Britain underperforms. The UK was ranked 3rd overall in the Anholt-GFK Nation Brands Index (2013), but fell to 10th when welcome was measured (although this was an improvement of 3 places over the previous year).

Major events such as the Royal Wedding ( 2011) Olympic and Paralympic Games and Diamond Jubilee (2012), Rugby League World Cup (2013), Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup (2014) and Rugby Union World Cup (2015) put Britain at the forefront of the world stage. These events provide opportunities to showcase the UK as an excellent destination to visit and invest in, with huge promotional potential for tourism, travel, hospitality and leisure businesses – but only if we make visitors feel welcome.

Research shows that the more welcome visitors feel, the more likely they are to recommend Britain as great destination to family and friends. This is particularly important since word of mouth has more influence over destination choice than any other source of information.

How are we doing?

Qualitative and quantitative research indicates that first time visitors feel more welcome in Britain that they expect to – the reality of Britain’s welcome is better than perceptions of it.

The Anholt-GFK Nation Brands Index (NBI) is the best source of potential visitors’ perceptions of Welcome. As part of the survey, respondents were asked to state how far they agreed with the following sentence: ‘If I visited this country, they would make me feel very welcome’.

In 2013 Britain was rated 10th of 50 countries for this attribute, much lower than on many other attributes such as culture and heritage. This is an improvement from the 2012 rating of 13th. Clearly however, there remains a lot of scope to improve perceptions of Welcome.

Actual visitor’s perceptions of Welcome are more positive and show perceptions are improving. Britain's net promoter score in the 2011 CAA Passenger Survey was 25, up from 16 in 2009. 80% of visitors said they felt extremely or very welcome, and only 2% felt unwelcome.

What are we doing?

Welcome can be divided into three work streams;

• Experiences while still overseas (pre-departure),
• Experiences at Ports of Entry/Exit, and
• Experiences while travelling within the UK or ‘In country’.

We have identified five strategic areas for improving Welcome:

1. Improve the UK visitor visa application process
2. Improve skills in the tourism sector
3. Improve sense of place and welcome at ports of entry
4. Reduce queue times at the border control at ports and airports
5. Use the power of 2012 across Government to promote Britain's Welcome 

We are working towards these strategic objectives and improving overall welcome through a number of projects. These include;

GREAT Britain You’re Invited

The theme of welcome is integral to our four-year marketing programme, and reflected in the form of an invitation; GREAT Britain You’re Invited. In June 2011 we launched a TV advert featuring globally known celebrities issuing a warm, personal invitation. In January 2012 we followed this with a major social media campaign: the invitation from the British people. This encouraged ordinary people as individuals, or members of clubs and societies, and small businesses to extend an invitation to friends and family to come to Britain in 2012 and thereafter. 

Social Media and PR

The use of PR and social media is important in improving perceptions of welcome as it provides a means of direct engagement with potential visitors, as well as a less formal, more welcoming tone of voice. We receive 11 million visitors annually to visitbritain.com, and our Facebook group LoveGreatBritain has over 1.9 million fans.

Welcome to Britain Group 
The Welcome to Britain Steering Group was brought together in 2007 under the leadership of VisitBritain. It worked with partners drawn from a wide range of organisations across travel, transport, hospitality, border processes and public diplomacy, whose activities have an impact on the quality of visitors’ first impressions of Britain (and critically the important ports of entry into the UK). The aims were to inspire Britain’s tourism and hospitality industry to significantly improve and deliver a first-class welcome to all visitors and ensure a lasting legacy in the shift of both perceptions and reality of the welcome experienced.

Following the publication of the Tourism Policy in March 2011 and DCMS’s greater engagement in delivering Welcome, the need for a separate steering group diminished.  The Welcome to Britain steering group has therefore been brought to a close.

Delivering the Tourism Policy

VisitBritain has reviewed its work to ensure it is aligned with the Government’s Tourism Policy, and the Tourism Deregulation Taskforce, of which we are a member.

The Tourism Policy sets out to improve welcome by increasing online visa applications, developing a shorter application form, providing guidance in local language, sharing VACs with trusted allies, creating greater transparency of data on port transit times and setting up minimum check in times. For more information on these please return to the main Tourism Affairs menu and select ‘Visas’.

In Country

VisitBritain has also coordinated work on Welcome ‘in country’ with Visit Scotland, Visit England, Visit Wales and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. These include:

• Welcome ‘audits’ have now been carried out at some 15 airports around the UK, resulting in programmes at those airports to build on best practice and address shortcomings.

• Improving Welcome skills within the tourism workforce. Visit Wales for example successfully ran the Croeso Cynnes Cymru (Warm Welsh Welcome) scheme in the run up to the Ryder Cup in 2010.

 For More Information

See our research and insights welcome topic page