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 GfK Anholt Nation Brand Index 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 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 2017 the UK was ranked 13th out of 50 destinations for Welcome whilst for Tourism the UK came 3rd and for Culture we were 5th. The UK’s Welcome rank has ranged between 10th in 2013 and 14th in 2008 places over the last ten years.

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

Behind these headline Welcome ranks for the UK we also know welcome varies by visitor market.  For example amongst Americans, Australians and Chinese, the UK is in the top six; for some visitor markets, the UK’s rank is in the lower half of the table, at least 30th.

For more information on perceptions read our full Nation Brands Index report How the world views Britain (PDF, 0.5MB).

Perceptions of welcome

In the 2017 GFK 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

Over recent years VisitBritain has sponsored questions on the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) survey of departing leisure visitors to monitor how welcome visitors felt in Britain as they ended their trip to fly home. 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).

Overall, visitors to Britain are experiencing high levels of welcome, and this has risen during this decade. Almost two fifths said they felt ‘extremely welcome’ in Britain in 2016, and a further 49% said ‘very welcome’.

As noted above with perceptions, there are differences in levels of Welcome, by market.  Among all markets in this study there were very few who felt unwelcome during their trip to Britain.  However, there were a few nations where there are lower levels of welcome - such as China, UAE and South Africa.  In terms of nations who felt most welcome during their stay, USA, Spain, Brazil and Denmark have the highest proportions who felt 'extremely welcome'. 

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.

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

Welcome and Expectations

VisitBritain know receiving a good welcome is strongly linked to overall enjoyment of a visit to Britain.  Indeed whilst the proportion of visitors who felt unwelcome during their visit to the UK is small, the level of welcome reported by respondents does have a direct impact on the overall enjoyment of their visit.

Those who said they felt extremely or very welcome during their trip to the UK were more likely to say that their overall enjoyment exceeded their expectations, compared to those who said they only felt ‘quite welcome’.  More detailed information by market, on the link between welcome and enjoyment can be found in our Visitor Experience report (PDF, 0.9MB)

Overall likelihood to recommend

To round off this topic, in 2015, VisitBritain used it sponsor questions on the International Passenger Survey to ask a question about the likelihood of departing visitors to recommend a visit to Britain to friends and family.

When asked on departure, over two thirds of visitors said they were ‘extremely likely’ to recommend a visit to Britain to their friends and family, while a further 26% said they were ‘likely’ to recommend a visit. The combined positive intention to recommend equates to 95%, 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)