Britain must build on today's positive inbound tourism figures which have delivered an all-time record revenue to Britain over the past 12 months, according to the chairman of VisitBritain Christopher Rodrigues.
Findings from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) reveal a 6% increase in visitor spend to £18.2 billion during the year to May 2012, with incoming holiday visitors over the period reaching a record 12.3 million.
Rodrigues described the figures as "a gold medal winning performance by the British tourism industry" ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, he warned that "the real challenge lies ahead as our global competitors raise their game in response to the job creation opportunity offered by the tourism industry".
In particular he pointed to the fact that countries like the USA, France, Spain and China are all raising their game with improved visa processing, lower taxes and increasing investment in tourism infrastructure and marketing.
"They understand that in a time of weak economic growth and high unemployment - particularly amongst the young - investing in tourism is a proven winner - creating jobs, delivering growth and providing significant proven returns on investment.
"Many of our tourism competitors face even tougher economic conditions than we do - and maybe because of that they are turning to tourism to provide a powerful engine to support recovery.
"With the eyes of the world upon us, 2012 provides a unique opportunity to showcase the UK's extraordinary tourism assets - our culture, our history, our countryside, our food and our world-renowned retail brands."
Rodrigues said that VisitBritain's GREAT campaign had already carried a positive message about Britain to 90 million residents in 14 of the world's leading cities, with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee also providing the world with a taster of what Britain has to offer.
"Now, with an expected global TV audience of over four billion viewers watching this year's Olympics, we are ready to showcase Britain to the world, encouraging past visitors from our traditional markets in North America and Europe to visit us again and putting ourselves front-of-mind in the rapidly growing tourism markets of Asia, the Middle East, Latin and South America by reaching out to countries like Brazil and to high spending markets like China."
However while he recognises that the Games are a wonderful platform to promote tourism to Britain, he urged that the real challenge comes after the athletes go home.
"What is absolutely clear is that to stay a gold medal winner you have to keep improving your personal best performances. So our industry, our tourism promotion agencies and our Government need to work together as never before to raise Britain's game if we are to continue to be medal winners in the years ahead."
VisitBritain is set to roll out the next phase of the GREAT marketing campaign immediately after the Games in order to avoid the post Olympics decline that has hurt previous host countries.
"In the autumn VisitBritain will deliver a consultation document which lays out a market by market partnership plan to make our best ever performance even better, " Rodrigues added.
By Janet Harmer
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