Chairman's foreword

Value of tourism to UK economy
SMEs in tourism
Jobs in tourism across the UK

Tourism is one of Britain’s success stories – two and a half times bigger than the automotive industry and growing faster than the digital sector. This industry matters to the nation’s economy.

A job creator – more than 3 million jobs in Britain depend on tourism and those jobs are in every local authority, every city, every region in the country – it is one of our most successful exports, with international visitors spending a record £22.5 billion here last year. It is an industry of entrepreneurs – 200,000 SMEs prosper in tourism – and of innovation – look how many digital and tech companies across the world are active in tourism.

And it is an industry that is not only growing, but also setting records. We have just had the best July ever for international visitor visits and in the first seven months of this year, visits have increased by 8% and spend by 9%. Domestic holiday visits rose by 5% in the first five months of the year – beating all previous records.

This industry is an economic powerhouse for the UK, worth £127 billion, representing around 10% of GDP – and we believe tourism can continue to deliver growth and economic value.  Unlike other industries tourism is not going to be outsourced, and needs no trade deal to enable Britain to continue to compete globally.

And yet tourism never seems to be at the top table when British politicians talk about our thriving industries. What can we do together to ensure that Britain continues to get its share of international visitors?

I am sure none of us in the industry is complacent about predictions of future growth because there are certainly signs of some headwinds. More than 2/3 of our international visitors come from Europe and our research is showing a hardening of sentiment against Britain. In the last three months for which we have figures (May-July) visits from Europe have fallen by 4%.

There is some lazy thinking too – that tourism doesn’t need any effort, as a weak pound is doing our job for us. Let me be clear, you don’t build a strong, resilient industry on a weak currency and there are plenty of destinations that will always be cheaper than us. We have to continue to invest in developing world-class product, getting Britain on the wish list of both international and domestic travellers and make it easy for those visitors to make that visit.

One of my first commitments on coming into the role of BTA Chairman was to agree to be the lead for a tourism sector bid within the Government’s industrial strategy.

This sector deal bid aims to do two things: first, to offer a long-term plan for where this industry could go and how it could further benefit the economy; and second, it offers practical asks, some challenges to Government that need to be addressed, and some proactive, positive offers for how the industry can engage constructively with the Government in the coming years.

Over the past few months, I have met with a great number of industry leaders from across the sector. All of them offered practical solutions and views and for that, I thank them. Many other industry figures have been contributing to this bid through the Working Group process to help formulate the plan being presented. Alongside this, a consultation was held for the 200,000 SMEs who account for the vast majority of this industry to ensure that all who have a stake in the sector had the opportunity to make their views heard.

The industry has come together with one voice and agreed on four main strands:

  • Skills. The industry needs a workforce to match its ambition. Long-term growth can only be supported by a long-term shift in attitudes to the sector with a ten-year campaign to recruit UK workers
  • Productivity. We have set the ambition of increasing tourism productivity by 1% extending shoulder seasons to make better use of existing assets and improving our competitive position in the business visits and events sector
  • Tourism zones – piloting clusters to build product, encourage an extended season and fix local transport issues particularly in coastal communities
  • Connectivity. Factoring tourism into transport policy making, ensuring a simple, welcoming and effective visa and border regime and ensuring the industry can capture the benefits of new digital platforms


We are at the beginning of the process but our initial ambition is to have tourism included as one of the industries being considered for a sector deal in the Government’s industrial strategy white paper.

Our partnership campaign with Expedia video that featured in the US
Discover England Fund year 1 projects
VisitBritain/VisitEngland Highlights 2016/17

We have continued to benefit from GREAT funding, working alongside the Department for International Trade, the British Council and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. That pot of money is essential to us and yet it is only confirmed on an annual basis. For 2016-17 our core funding levels were £19.4 million for VisitBritain and £7 million for VisitEngland, with GREAT funding of £22.8 million. The exchange rate drop of 16% over the past two years has made our delivery in international markets even more challenging when we are buying in foreign currencies.

We have amplified our activity by working with commercial partners – some of the biggest names in tourism such as British Airways and Expedia, and some well known brands such as the Premier League and the BBC – who have contributed £20 million cash and in-kind in 2016-17 to our campaigns. And we have generated a net income of £2.23 million from our retail activities enabling product suppliers to reach international customers. I am pleased to announce that even in such difficult trading times the BTA has delivered £872 million of economic value to the UK. That means for every pound invested in us £20 of additional spend is generated for the economy.

VisitEngland has also had a strong focus on setting up and running the Discover England Fund (DEF) to build world-class bookable product. In year one (2016-17), we have supported 20 pilot projects. In this financial year, we are building on this by supporting a number of large scale projects of over £1 million – six have been announced to date – that will each run over two years, as well as continuing to support smaller test and learn projects. The collaboration and innovation that has already been spurred by these investments has stepped us up a gear in ensuring that we are continuing to offer a great experience for our customers.

As a new Chair, I have plenty of people to thank for supporting me through my first six months. First, of course, my predecessor, Christopher Rodrigues, with whom I worked as a Board member – we still see him around as he is Chairman of the British Council – Penelope, Viscountess Cobham, whose term as VisitEngland Advisory Board Chairman ended in March 2017 and her successor Denis Wormwell who was also an Advisory Board member in 2016/17. My thanks to both Boards who give of their time and expertise, and to Sally and the team who delivered the great results that you can read about in this annual review. Finally thank you to our sponsoring department, DCMS, and to the former tourism minister, Tracey Crouch. I look forward to continuing to develop our relationship with the new tourism minister, John Glen.

I believe the case for investment in tourism and in the work that the BTA does to support its growth is well-evidenced and compelling. I look forward to working with you to ensure that we deliver the full potential of this wonderful industry.


"Tourism is one of Britain’s success stories – two and a half times bigger than the automotive industry and growing faster than the digital sector. This industry matters to the nation’s economy."