CEO statement

Keeping England’s tourism industry competitive
Understanding markets & customers
Building powerful partnerships
We work to drive the economic value of tourism and deliver growth across the nations and regions of Britain. To do that, we use our marketing to inspire overseas visitors and encourage Brits to holiday at home.

Inspiring the world to explore the nations and regions of Britain and encouraging Brits to holiday at home is at the core of what we do. This year, we’ve focused our efforts and resources on digital, and getting the right content to the right people and at the right time. We’ve integrated our campaigns, content and PR both domestically and overseas under the banner of #OMGB Home of Amazing Moments. Overall, our efforts in 2016/17 resulted in £872 million in additional visitor spend. That means that for every £1 invested in us, a visitor spent £20 in Britain.

Our new domestic campaign ‘Join the World - Discover the UK’ (launched in September 2017) demonstrates how we continue to push our marketing, as it focuses upon a younger audience - a lost generation - that our research shows are less likely to book holidays at home.


To reach new audiences and convert aspiration into booking, we work with commercial partners.

This year, we’ve focused on building deeper commercial partnerships with fewer global partners. This resulted in multi-million pound partnerships with major players like Expedia and Flight Centre to reach audiences around the world. And from British Airways to BBC Worldwide, the Premier League to Warner Bros. – we have continued to develop exciting new ways to encourage the world to visit. We’ve worked with others to develop routes to Manchester from China and the US and developed campaigns that encourage people to book a film-inspired holiday, or target the new and emerging millennials market in the US. Our work to secure investment from commercial partners, last year, generated £20 million contributions in cash and in-kind contributions to our marketing activities (a marked increase from the £12.7 million generated the previous year).

We continue as key players in the GREAT campaign with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Department for International Trade and the British Council. Closer working means we have secured additional funding through the GREAT Challenge Fund. We’ve also kept our strong relationships with our strategic partners - Visit Wales, VisitScotland, Tourism Northern Ireland and London & Partners - and have developed a high level marketing plan that sets out areas where we can cooperate to multiply our impact and ensure the best use of public funding.


Keeping competitive in the rapidly growing global tourism industry is a challenge, and one that can be met by developing stand out bookable products through the £40m Discover England Fund.

Launched in April 2016, this year we completed the first year of the three-year fund: a year which saw 20 pilot projects delivered, and targeting markets from around the world. These projects developed new and exciting solutions to improve connectivity (from new tickets and passes through to e-car hire), develop inter-regional products and itineraries (covering rural, coastal, waterway and garden destinations) and provide new digital platforms and apps which make the experience of international visitors easier, whether they’re looking at golf or heritage cities. We also funded a raft of research to inform product development: from best-practice and case studies, to insights on motivations and barriers for international leisure and business visitors.

Some year one pilots (like the Great West Way, England’s Seafood Coast and The Collection) demonstrated early successes and have now moved onto large-scale collaborative projects that have secured further funding for years two and three. With further large scale projects and new pilot projects having been announced – which cover a range of destinations, approaches and topics, from developing Manchester as an international gateway, to art trails along the South East Coast, and regional tours of science themed itineraries – the Fund is delivering the step-change in English tourism that the Fund requires and reinvigorating England’s regional offer.

Events are GREAT
Join the World - Discover the UK Glasgow campaign
Discover England Fund Year 1 pilots

We’ve also looked at where we can add value across Britain by developing new products and distribution capability to the travel trade.

As well as providing a route to market for many of the Discover England Fund’s pilot projects that have bookable products, our focus has been on boosting or changing perceptions of what this country can offer in terms of rail travel and its food and drink. To make Britain easier to explore, we developed rail products that join up visitor experiences: from Highlands itineraries to five days in Southern England linking Bath, Portsmouth and Brighton. We’ve also issued best practice guidance and advice for DMOs, train operators and attractions – to make it easier for overseas visitors to travel that ‘final mile’ between train station and final destination.

We also looked to shift perceptions of British food and launched a three-year collaboration with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Itineraries for international visitors in four regional hubs highlight food and drink experiences that are on offer: from world class craft ales and gins in London, to a Scotland package that incorporates attractions, restaurants and the famous Speyside whisky region.


We enable British tourism businesses to boost and improve their export capability and appeal in a rapidly evolving tourism landscape.

Our popular international missions enable small suppliers to meet international buyers and build their export capacity and, last year, we took a record number of tourism businesses to China (one of the fastest growing international markets) and then to South Korea. We also brought hundreds of buyers to meet UK travel and tourism operators at our flagship ExploreGB trade show: With thousands of business meetings taking place over two days, and educational visits for nearly 300 buyers and journalists from 20 key markets, this helped businesses to improve their export capability and drive visits.

Our retail offering continued to grow: with 70 new products added and a new hub city approach which has seen bookable itineraries for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland become available for international customers and helped spread visits and spend across the nations. Overall, our online shop generated £2.23 million net profit: money that be directly reinvested in our marketing activity.


With the Government looking to attract investment in the UK, tourism can play a vital role in supporting this: particularly by growing business events for Britain and England.

During the past year, our event support programme gave vital funding for bids to win international events and to help existing events attract international visitors, as well as advocacy support. 12 events across Britain were backed, from marketing and advertising support to grow delegate numbers at events in locations such as Plymouth, Birmingham and Edinburgh to supporting Glasgow City Marketing Bureau’s bid to host the European College of Sports Science in 2021 which is expected to contribute £5 million to the economy.

We also launched a pilot event for the MICE market at ExploreGB, where 30 UK suppliers met and did business with 30 buyers, followed by educational trips, across Britain. And we continued to connect England event suppliers with international events organisers through events in Europe and North America.


Of course, we have a statutory duty to advise Government and industry. And in a changeable external environment, this has been more important than ever.

Post-Brexit vote, we have attended roundtables run by the Minister and Secretary of State, given evidence to Select Committees on Rural Tourism and the implications of Brexit for tourism and we meet with Ministers and officials across Westminster and Whitehall to ensure that tourism’s voice is heard. We have continued to provide research that helps British and English tourism businesses grow and develop: and we provide monthly updates on visitor numbers, consumer trends, and insights into preferences, decision-making and perceptions.

Of course, no mention of the year could overlook the tragic events that have taken place. At that time, we brought representatives from across the industry together through the Tourism Industry Emergency Response Group and provided a coordinated, unified, response: making it clear that Britain remained open for business, and providing a coordinated impact assessment to Government.


I would like to close by thanking the new chair of the BTA Board, Steve Ridgwell CBE, and the new chair of the VisitEngland Advisory Board, Denis Wormwell, for their support, leadership and guidance. Thanks must also go to our strategic and commercial partners, destination organisations and the wider tourism industry, as well as everyone in the VisitBritain/VisitEngland team, for their hard work and support.

The past year has been a challenging one with many factors – from currency fluctuations to domestic and global political events and changing consumer behaviours – having an impact on how we work and what we do. In spite of that, the tourism industry remains strong and robust and I am looking forward to the next 12 months, confident we can play our part in creating the next chapter in Britain’s tourism success story.

Thank you

Sally Balcombe

CEO, VisitBritain/VisitEngland

"We’ve pooled our knowledge, insight and experience of customers and markets at home and abroad to strengthen England’s tourism product, boost Britain’s appeal and inspire more people to visit."