We’re good to go
VisitBritain reassures travellers with ‘ring of confidence’
In the first part of a two-part conversation with VisitBritain’s Senior Vice President, The Americas, Paul Gauger talks about what VisitBritain is doing to help with the destination’s tourism recovery; health and safety initiatives; and programs designed to give both domestic travellers and future international visitors the confidence to travel.
Maybe you can start by giving Canadian Travel Press’ readers a bit of an overview of the impact of COVID-19 on tourism to Great Britain and on VisitBritain’s operations?
Let’s start by confirming that our Canada team continues to serve the travel industry. Our Toronto-based team consists of Lynda Falcone, Travel Trade Manager; Cathy Stapells, Senior Marketing & Communications Manager; and Natalie Szubert, Trade & Communications Co-ordinator.
Our most recent forecast for inbound tourism to the UK in 2020, as of August 25, is for a decline of 73% in visits to 11 million and a decline of 79% in spending to £6 billion ($10 billion CAD). This would represent a loss vs the pre-COVID forecast of 30.7 million visits and £24 billion ($40 billion CAD) spending. (https://www.visitbritain.org/2020-tourism-forecast).
Looking at the domestic market, our latest forecast is for a 49% decline in domestic tourism spending in Britain this year equalling a £44.9 billion ($76 billion CAD) loss to the economy. This gives a total forecast loss, when combining domestic and inbound, of spending this year of £68.8 billion ($116 billion CAD).
For Canada, our forecasts expect visits to drop by 78% with spend expected to drop by 79%.
[NB: Conversion rate of £1 GBP to $1.70 CAD]
As a follow-up, what is VisitBritain’s role in the United Kingdom’s tourism industry’s recovery? What are the priorities?
Tourism is one of the main drivers of economic recovery after Covid-19, and domestic tourism began a phased reopening on July 4. Our role is to the lead the UK Tourism Industry to recovery. Our priorities include: advising government by acting as an interface between the industry and government, advising on policy interventions needed to rebuild the industry; helping UK suppliers to come through COVID-19 and rebuild, ensuring that international buyers are ready to sell Britain; and to deliver a strong marketing campaign to recover the volume of domestic staycations and inbound visitors working in collaboration with our strategic partners and the wider industry.
Is VisitBritain helping the industry in specific ways? Is it providing funding to DMOs?
As well as the priorities outlined above, early in the pandemic, we worked with the Tourism Minister and the UK Government to launch a £1.3 million ($2.2 million CAD) fund to support Destination Management Organizations. The funding provided immediate financial support to DMOs who were at severe risk of closure due to the pandemic.
Under the program, DMOs received up to £2,500 ($4,240 CAD) per month for two members of non-furloughed staff who provide crucial business support services and up to £5,000 ($8,480 CAD) to cover operating costs.
The UK Government also provided a £3 million ($5 million CAD) fund that local authorities and destination management companies could bid in to for campaigns to promote tourism, attract domestic visitors and boost local economies, as part of its umbrella ‘Enjoy Summer Safely’ campaign.
Our teams, in the UK and here in Canada, continue to engage our tourism partners by offering support, industry seminars and outreach, through travel trade activities, PR and media relations, and social/digital content.
Health and safety has become a critical priority for all sectors of the industry. Has VisitBritain introduced a healthy and safety strategy and/or protocols for the industry? How will visitors know that destinations or tourism operators in the UK are adhering to the new protocols?
VisitBritain/VisitEngland has launched a UK-wide industry standard and consumer mark – We’re Good to Go – in partnership with the national tourist organizations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to provide a ‘ring of confidence’ for tourism as the sector works toward recovery.
Businesses across the sector can demonstrate that they are adhering to the respective Government and public health guidance, and have carried out a COVID-19 risk assessment to check they have the required processes in place. This risk assessment must be able to be produced at any point should they receive an assessment visit for a spot check or a call. A call-handling service provides support and assessors also carry-out spot-checks to ensure adherence.
We’re Good To Go is also supporting domestic and future international visitors to book a break in the UK with confidence, reassuring travellers that tourism businesses are following official guidelines to welcome them back safely and still providing a great visitor experience. We want visitors to be able to enjoy their holidays and to support businesses to be confident they have the correct procedures in place.
In a very short space of time, the We’re Good to Go industry standard has been a success, with more than 35,000 applications made by businesses and visitor attractions right across the UK.
Alongside the industry campaign, we have launched a ‘Know Before You Go’ public information campaign to support tourism in Great Britain and Northern Ireland as businesses start to re-open, reassuring visitors by checking about what is safe to do and when, and sign-posting to information about destinations and available services before travelling. It is a clear and simple message that compels those intending to travel within the UK to check before setting off. This is a domestic campaign at present, but will be rolled out internationally once restrictions begin to lift.
One of the problems that travel agents are having these days, in terms of counselling their clients, is that it’s sometimes hard to know whether travellers can or can’t go to a destination. The rules and restrictions seem to change regularly – does VisitBritain have something in place to help agents when they’re advising their clients?
We continue to follow the guidance of the UK Government which currently has in place a 14-day quarantine for arrivals. The Canadian government has in place a non-essential travel advisory and a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals.
The situation is indeed fast moving so it really is best to keep up to date on the UK Government website and also the respective nations’ guidance.
Please see the following links:
In next week’s issue of Canadian Travel Press, Paul Gauger offers some observations on how a destination markets itself during a global pandemic.