CEO statement

Sally BalcombeI am delighted to present our results for 2017/18 that show VisitBritain/VisitEngland has more than delivered on our Government targets.

Our activity to build the value of tourism to Britain has meant an additional £1 billion for the economy – spread across the nations and regions. Once again this result demonstrates the effectiveness of VisitBritain/VisitEngland - for every £1 that the Government invests in us we deliver £25 to the British economy. We leverage the Government investment by co-funding with commercial partners – last year we attracted £13 million of private sector investment in cash and in-kind. We run an online shop that generated £27.8 million in revenue last year and over £2 million in profit that is invested in our core activities.

Our success in building tourism value to Britain is based on our understanding of international markets and customers. We have 20 offices overseas with locally engaged staff who build our market insights and understanding of the best customers to target and the most effective platforms to reach them. Our market teams work closely with our Public Diplomacy partners – the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), Department for International Trade (DiT) and British Council - to promote Britain to the world and jointly address some of the enablers of tourism growth such as visa policy and perceptions. We are one of the founding members of the GREAT campaign and investment from this fund enabled us to step up activity in priority markets – France , Germany, the US, GCC, Australia, China and India – as well as run a domestic Britain campaign to ensure our home market has the same passion for holidaying in Britain as our overseas visitors.

Earlier this year we launched our new Global campaign – I Travel For...  – tapping into the passion points that people travel for, and showing lesser known experiences across the nations and regions of Britain. Our partners helped us amplify our message as we developed a more sustained ‘always on’ campaign supported by inspirational content that we curated and created. And our results indicate that our customer focus, great content and choosing the right partners has made our marketing even more effective.

Our domestic campaign – Join the World - targeted those who are losing the habit of holidaying at home. 16 to 34-year-olds took almost 1.4 million fewer holidays at home in 2016 compared with a decade ago. To capture this young audience we asked social media influencers and travellers from overseas to highlight the amazing moments and experiences that can only be had on a holiday in the UK.

Building the bookable product that attracts the visitors of the future has been one of the aims of the Discover England Fund, administered by VisitEngland. Many Discover England Fund projects are also tackling long-standing barriers to growth such as connectivity, a fragmented delivery landscape and a lack of regional product.

To date, the Fund has created 56 projects, of which 14 are flagship and large-scale and 38 are small-scale. Over the last 12 months, 22 new projects have received funding – 12 in excess of £1 million. Every project created through the Fund has been done so with the purpose of bringing innovative solutions and products to England’s tourism market and driving regional growth.

Our new focus on business events is getting into its stride as we work with venues and destinations to help them win targeted conferences and become more internationally competitive. We have brought international buyers to the UK to meet suppliers and experience more of Britain’s world class tourism infrastructure in our MeetGB programme and taken destinations to China and Europe building the connections to ensure Britain is in the consideration set for international events.

As we count down to exiting the EU we are working to advise Government on how to ensure we continue to compete as an international tourism destination and the industry’s resilience.  A major project for us this year has been working with the industry to facilitate a tourism sector bid to be part of the Government’s industrial strategy. The industry came together under the leadership of Steve Ridgeway with a clear list of asks of Government and commitments. The case is now with Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and being driven through by Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and our new Secretary of State Jeremy White.

As British inbound tourism continues to benefit from strong growth we believe that we will pass our target of 40 million inbound visitors this year, two years early. And domestic holidays also saw good growth last year with more than £100 billion spent in the UK by domestic visitors. That success has turned our mind to planning our strategy for the next five years, ensuring that we have a clear focus and deliver the maximum impact for our limited funding.

We have started that work with a clear statement of our intent to deliver tourism growth for the economy in our refreshed mission:

To make tourism one of the most successful and productive sectors for the economy

And this focus will drive all our activity, which will be grouped around five strategic priorities:

  • Growing the value of tourism for the UK economy
  • Supporting productivity of the tourism industry
  • Driving the dispersal of tourism value to the nations and regions
  • Delivering tourism growth for England
  • Being the expert advisor to Government and the industry on growing tourism

Underpinning this we have looked at how we could increase our impact by moving from being a doing organisation to being more of an enabling one, helping the industry and partners to maximise their activity and being clear where we add value.

I would like to close by thanking our chair of the BTA Board, Steve Ridgway CBE, and the 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.

Over the next few months we will be working to ensure that all our activity delivers on these priorities and reviewing how we will start the implementation in year one. I hope you will join me in early 2019 as we announce our new strategy and that in the coming months we continue to work together to ensure tourism’s further growth and economic delivery to the nations and regions.

Sally Balcombe, CEO, VisitBritain/VisitEngland