Warm and welcoming
VisitBritain continues to engage with travellers during the global pandemic
How do you market a destination during a global pandemic? Well, in the second part of CTP’s conversation with VisitBritain’s Senior Vice President, The Americas, Paul Gauger responds to that question and he also offers some insight on VisitBritain’s strategy for Canada and where travel advisors fit in that plan.
So, how exactly does a destination market itself during a global pandemic? What’s VisitBritain’s strategy? What’s its message to both the industry and the consumer?
We are working hard to keep Britain front of mind globally for when we travel once more. We used social and web content plus earned media in our initial phase of consumer communication internationally, using British culture to keep our audiences engaged and entertained. This means that when the time comes for us to promote travel to Britain once more, we will have maintained a warm dialogue with consumers to ensure Britain remains top of mind as a welcoming, diverse and accessible destination.
As we evolve the message and the entertainment phase moves into inspiration, and then early recovery, we’re very mindful that travel will recover at various stages around the world. From our initial content around British film & TV, food & drink, literature, culture and quizzes, we are moving towards dreaming of future travel and building a wish list with similar content pillars as above, but with the addition of highlighting the wealth of offerings around coast and countryside.
As a follow-up, is VisitBritain currently operating any marketing campaigns? Are those campaigns directed strictly to the domestic market or have you launched an international campaign?
Once tourism started to reopen on July 4, a short-term domestic economic campaign called ‘Enjoy Summer Safely’ was launched by the government to motivate an immediate and safe return to retail, leisure and hospitality. Running in conjunction with ‘We’re Good to Go’ and ‘Know Before You Go’, it provided information and support for travellers to once again have confidence to holiday within the UK.
Our focus in Britain right now is to extend the tourism season this year and we are set to launch a £5 million domestic advertising and content partnership campaign ‘Escape the Everyday,’ to encourage people to take a domestic break during autumn and winter to our vibrant cities, stunning countryside and coastal towns.
We are also in the forward stages of planning our International Recovery Strategy that will provide a consistent consumer marketing message for Britain. By necessity it will provide flexibility to respond as travel recovers in stages around the world as advisories and restrictions to travel are removed. As well as inspiring travellers to experience the coast & countryside, heritage & culture, and food & drink of Britain, we want to provide reassurance that it is safe to do so.
Can you offer some further details on these campaigns?
Inbound tourism is one of the UK’s most valuable export industries, its third largest service export, worth more than £28 billion ($47.5 billion CAD) to the economy in 2019 and VisitBritain wants to reassure international visitors that our planning towards the future recovery continues.
Tourism is an extremely competitive global industry and will be even more so this year. Britain will need to be out there and competing for international visitors.
We are investing £3 million ($5 million CAD) in our valuable European markets to encourage visitors who are actively searching travel and who are able to travel to the UK now, to book a city break trip across winter and into spring 2021.
This activity will inspire visitors to experience all that Britain has to offer, while offering reassurance that it is safe to do so and providing practical information to help plan a trip. While most of our major markets are now subject to quarantine the expectation is that when restrictions are lifted and it is appropriate to do so that we will roll the international campaign to other markets.
What about the Canada, can you talk about VisitBritain’s strategy/plan is for this market?
Canada is an important market for us.
In 2019 (pre-COVID), Britain saw 874,000 visits from Canada (up 3% over 2018), the second highest year on record. Canadians spent £734 million ($1.24 billion CAD) (up 8% over 2018), a new record. Canada is in a strong position to recover well from the pandemic.
We are watching closely the travel advisories and restrictions that are still in place, and look forward to the time when those can be lifted. We are keen to keep travellers informed about news and upcoming events.
Next year, we are highlighting the English Coast Path. When completed, it will be the longest coastal path in the world at 2,795 miles (4,498 km) long.
Scotland will celebrate its Year of Coast & Waters, and Wales will highlight its Year of Outdoors.
RHS Garden Bridgewater is set to open near Manchester, and Coventry City of Culture is set to start its year-long program in May 2021.
And looking ahead, the spotlight will be on the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games with the opportunity to explore Birmingham and the West Midlands, as well as nearby Coventry, Stratford-upon-Avon, Royal Leamington Spa and Rugby.
And where do travel agents and tour operators fit? Can you talk about some of VisitBritain’s trade activities and initiatives?
Our travel trade partners are extremely important to us – we couldn’t do it without them! We want to reassure them that we are diligently working towards recovery alongside the UK tourism industry.
This is our opportunity as an industry to show the value of the travel agent and the importance of using a Canadian tour operator. Customers know they have someone to contact easily, get the most current info and find a way to handle their bookings in a professional and conscientious manner during very challenging times.
We have been participating in industry events to ensure the trade have accurate information on Britain, especially through our industry webinar series, both live and pre-recorded. The We’re Good to Go and Know Before You Go initiatives are key to promoting the UK as a safe destination to travel and keeping consumers informed.
Essential information for travel agents is available on our trade site: https://trade.visitbritain.com/.
The site is updated constantly to reflect the most current information available. It includes information on the Know Before You Go and We’re Good to Go industry standard; UK Government guidance, FAQs, useful Covid links and how the UK tourism industry is adapting to ensure the safety and enjoyment of visitors.
What about the future? What’s your view of the timeline for the industry’s recovery?
We expect a pent-up demand for travel, when the time comes.
Britain is a key leisure, VFR, and business travel destination for Canadians. It continues to be an evolving situation, and we are looking to 2021 to see a return of international travellers to Britain.
Looking further ahead, tourism from Canada to the UK is likely to reach pre-pandemic levels around 2024. Forecasts for 2019-2025 show 13% growth in visits and 17% growth in spend from the Canadian market.
We believe there will be a new willingness by consumers to follow the rules in order to be safe. Our ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry standard is key to recognizing that health and safety standards are of prime importance to Canadian travellers.
Last question. Is the glass half empty or half full? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future? And why?
I’m always a ‘glass full’ kind of guy.
We are in a very challenging situation, but we will all get through this together. I’m very confident the tourism industry will weather the pandemic and come back better than ever over the next few years.
Britain and Canada share a strong relationship with Commonwealth and ancestral connections, and we look forward to welcoming Canadians back when the time is right.
All of those things Canadians love so much about Britain – heritage & culture, food & drink, film & TV locations and Royal Britain – are all waiting for their return.