I recently met up in Parliament with Visit Britain/Visit England to find out more about their work promoting Britain as a tourist destination. Visit Britain markets Britain internationally to grow visitor numbers and help drive economic growth. Visit England supports businesses with things like digital skills and simplifying the English tourist offer. Together they cost the taxpayer around £47 million, funded across Government by DCMS and the Cabinet Office. It generates much more in income for the UK with tourism worth around £127 billion or about 9% of GDP. The industry supports around 3 million jobs. Of course visitors come to the UK without seeing a marketing campaign but Visit Britain not only helps attract more visitors but around 15% of visitors who venture outside of London say their decision was influenced by Visit Britain’s GREAT campaign.
But it’s not all plain sailing. Other countries compete for tourists and many countries spend much more doing so. Even Ireland with their smaller economy spends as much as we do. Furthermore, our region lags behind many others including in the recovery of tourist numbers since the COVID pandemic. Inbound visitor numbers to the UK are yet to recover to their 2019 level though by 2023, inbound spending is set to beat 2019 levels – a by-product presumably of high inflation. The spend for the North East is down by 16% – so much for levelling up. As a recent report about jobs in seaside towns revealed, more needs to be done to bring back jobs to coastal towns after a decade of decline.