The New Tourism: Welcoming, Innovative, Adaptable

Paul Gauger, Senior Vice President, The Americas, VISITBRITAIN

When international travel resumes, Paul Gauger, Senior Vice President, The Americas for VisitBritain, expects to see an increase in the number of consumers using a travel agent.

“Many consumers are re-evaluating how they book travel, acknowledging that human contact, a voice and opinion of experienced, trusted travel professionals is more important than ever,” Gauger tells Travel Courier. “When restrictions are lifted, tourism will be as welcoming, innovative and adaptable as ever and adjust to whatever the new normal looks like.”

In order to move forward successfully, Gauger says regaining consumer confidence in travelling will be important.

“Consumer confidence is key, recognizing that health concerns are a primary issue,” he says. “We will be working in close partnership with airlines and tour operators to ensure that guidelines are in place in — and keep travel agents updated on those guidelines.”

One of the challenges for Great Britain is that it’s entering the first phases of reopening for tourism (as of June 8th with a 14-day quarantine period) as many other European destinations open up for travel within Europe.

“However, as we work toward reopening, we are working across the industry and with the UK Government to ensure that tourism can recover as quickly as possible once restrictions are lifted,” he says. “We are working with the industry to develop a common industry standard (reassurance quality mark) that would provide a ‘ring of confidence’ for tourism businesses, attractions and destinations as well as reassurance to visitors that businesses have clear processes in place when restrictions are lifted.”

Throughout this time, the destination is supporting travel industry partners to ensure they have access to VisitBritain’s recovery approach and campaign information as it develops, and are in the process of preparing a series of webinars for travel trade to provide the latest guidance and information on travel to Britain and keep them updated as hotels and attractions reopen.

“Canadian travellers can be assured of a very warm British welcome when the time comes to travel again,” he says. “They will return to experience our world-famous culture, rich heritage, vibrant cities, beautiful landscapes and coastal walks.”

Looking longer-term, he says a ‘Tourism Sector Deal,’ previously announced by the UK Government, includes developing the concept of Tourism Zones, to drive visitor numbers across the country, extend the tourism season and to build the local tourism offer across destinations, tackling local barriers to tourism growth.

“So, we will also be working to use the sector deal outcomes to support the industry longer-term for a new era of travel, to drive innovation and boost the UK’s profile as a destination, and tourism’s contribution to the wider recovery,” he says.

While discussions are ongoing with the industry, the way forward could include businesses completing a free online assessment to check they are taking the necessary steps to adhere to the official guidelines and be provided with a quality mark they could use and a certificate that recognizes they have gone through the process.

With tourism being an extremely competitive global industry, he predicts that destinations will all be working hard for visitors once travel resumes.

“VisitBritain is keeping Britain front of mind globally through our social channels including @lovegreatbritain and, sharing the best of our culture and virtual visitor attractions from film and TV to music, heritage, literature, gardens and British food and drink,” he says. “We are focussing on five key areas: advising the UK Government; acting as the interface between the tourism industry and the Government to ensure that the economic impacts on the tourism industry are understood and that policy matches the scale of the response needed; industry support and communication and recovery preparation, as well as our own staff welfare and business continuity.”

Caernarfon castle overlooking the Menai straits, Wales. VisitBritain/Lee Beel