Britain's welcome

Welcome is an important factor in holiday decision making for those planning a trip outside their own country. Whilst perhaps not the headline pull of heritage, culture or attractions, perceptions of the welcome tourists receive when in Britain are significant. We also know receiving a good welcome is strongly linked to overall enjoyment of a visit to Britain and being likely to recommend visiting a destination to others. 

VisitBritain therefore monitors perceptions of Britain’s welcome in key markets around the world to understand both what people think and why.  We also track the actual level of welcome visitors report they experience in Britain.

Perceptions of welcome

From the Anholt-Ipsos Nation Brands Index (NBI) we know perceptions of the UK are generally positive. This annual global study looks at the views of 1,000 people in each of 20 panel markets and ranks 50 nations on 23 attributes. These are people who have not necessarily visited the UK but are representative of the online population in their countries, and of course perceptions are key to holiday destination choices.

Welcome is one of four aspects (out of the twenty three) for which the UK is ranked outside the top ten. Although still within the upper half of nations Welcome is an area of relative weakness for us, especially when compared to other factors relating to Tourism or Culture. In 2018 the UK was ranked 15th out of 50 destinations for Welcome whilst for both Tourism and Culture the UK came 4th. The UK’s Welcome rank has ranged between 10th in 2013 and 15th in 2018 over the last ten years.

NBI 2018 ranking for UK 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
If visited, the people would make me feel very welcome 14 13 13 12 13 10 13 11 12 13 15

Behind these headline Welcome ranks for the UK we also know welcome varies by visitor market. For example amongst Australians and Chinese, the UK is in the top five; for some visitor markets, the UK’s rank is in the lower half of the table, down to 41st.

For more information on perceptions read our full Nation Brands Index report How the world views Britain (PDF, 0.7MB).

Perceptions of welcome

In the 2017 NBI VisitBritain explored the various elements of a holiday welcome which will be influential before the trip, during the planning stages and other elements experienced on holiday. These elements were:

Before a holiday During a holiday
Easy visa application Convenient opening times Ease of getting around
Exciting and interesting culture Signs/information in my language Clean streets
Tolerant of diversity Positive interaction with locals Smiling faces
Accommodating of tourists Helpful hotel staff Authentic experiences
Perception of people in the country Friendly service in restaurant Familiar comforts
Country's image in the media/news Stress-free airport experience Friendly staff at border
Country's image in literature, film and TV Food that appeals to me  

The results show welcome is composed of many elements and all of these are important –with no one single element standing out. At the top of the list for feelings of welcome are holiday destinations that are seen as “accommodating of tourists”, followed by the ease of getting around the destination once they have arrived. The ease of getting a visa also ranks highly. These all speak to the traveller’s desire to have an easy, hassle-free experience before and during their holiday.  The broader image of the country, whether in the media/news or in literature/film/TV, was less important than the other aspects of Welcome, although were still rated as very or quite important by most respondents.

To explore all of the welcome aspects in more detail, including analysis by market, the full NBI welcome report can be downloaded here (PDF, 0.6MB).

Experiences of welcome

VisitBritain sponsors a number of questions each year on the International Passenger Survey to gain a greater understanding of Britain’s visitors. In 2017 VisitBritain added a sponsored question to ask departing visitors how welcome they felt in the UK as they ended their trip to head home or onto their next destination. Visitors were asked to rate the experience of Welcome on a five point scale where 5 was the most positive (felt extremely welcome in Britain) and 1 the least positive (felt not at all welcome).

Small graph showing scale of responses from Very Unwelcome to Very Welcome. 82% of respondents say Britain is Very Welcome, while 15% say Welcome. The rest are neglible.

As noted above with perceptions, there are differences in levels of Welcome, by market. Among all markets there were very few who felt unwelcome during their trip to Britain. However, there were a few nations where there are lower levels of strong welcome – such as Portugal, Singapore, Hong Kong, Qatar and China. In terms of nations who felt most welcome during their stay, Brazil, USA, Oman, Russia and Poland have the highest proportion who felt ‘very welcome’.

 

Graph showing responses on welcome by 32 markets. Those with the highest perception of Britain's welcome are: Brazil (93%), USA (87%), Oman (88%), Russia (87%), and Poland 87%)

Welcome was felt most strongly amongst those visiting friends and relatives, followed by those on holiday in Britain. Business visitors and those visiting for study were less likely to feel a strong sense of welcome during their visit to Britain.

Graph showing Welcome was most strongly felt by those visiting friends and relatives (84%) while those feeling least welcome were business visitors (76%) and those visiting for study (77%)

More detailed information by market, on experiences of Welcome can be found in our Visitor Experience report (PDF, 0.9MB)

Expectations of Britain visit

During 2015, in the same CAA survey we asked leisure visitors how different trip elements met their expectations. Encouragingly the UK’s quality of tourist attractions, at least met expectations for the overwhelming majority of visitors (98%).  Similarly high results were recorded for the friendliness of British people (98%) and overall 99% enjoyed their visit to the UK – over half said their enjoyment expectations were exceeded.

Graph showing expectation of visitors to Britain on quality of tourist attractions (58% exceeded expectations), Friendliness (54%), overall enjoyment (52%),  ease of public transport (45%), accommodation's customer service (39%), Weather (38%), Signs and info for visitors in English (36%), quality of hotel (34%), restaurant customer service (34%), food availability (33%), Ease of driving (25%), Signs and info in your language (17%).

Providing signs and information in visitors’ own languages fell below expectations for almost four in ten from non-English-speaking markets.

Overall likelihood to recommend

Aswell as the level of welcome, VisitBritain also included a sponsored question about the likelihood of departing visitors to recommend a visit to the UK to friends and family.

Graph showing the likelihood to recommend Britain by visitors: 2% neutral; 15% likely; 82% Extremely likely.

When asked on departure, 82% visitors said they were ‘extremely likely’ to recommend a visit to the UK to their friends and family, while a further 15% said they were ‘likely’ to recommend a visit. The combined positive intention to recommend equates to 97%, a very favourable result overall.  Furthermore, the views of friends and family are among the most important influences / inspirations when choosing a holiday.  Please visit our understanding international visitor page for more information on visitors the planning and decision making cycle.

Through the IPS visitors were also asked about their satisfaction with four main trip elements: attractions & activities, public transport, food & drink and value for money – findings from this research are included in the full Visitor Experience report (PDF, 0.9MB)