The British Tourist Authority (BTA) has today set out its priorities and how it will structure to deliver on these, following the good funding settlement for tourism in the Comprehensive Spending Review including the new £40 million Discover England Fund and increased funding for the UK Government's GREAT campaign.
The underlying principles are to ensure that both Britain and England activity is focused and aligned, redeploying resources and driving efficiencies to invest in front-line activities.
There are several drivers for the changes - there have been changes in markets and in the way consumers book their travel and consume their media, there is a clear change of focus for VisitEngland, and the Government has asked the two organisations to be brought more closely together.
BTA Chief Executive Sally Balcombe confirmed that the organisation's priorities were to market the nations and regions of Britain overseas to drive growth in international leisure and business tourism, as well as maintain distinct activities to develop and market England tourism with greater co-ordination across the industry.
Ms Balcombe said:
"With a good settlement and clear organisational focus we have an opportunity to deliver tourism growth across the nations of Britain and for the English regions. Of course there are challenges and tourism continues to be a fiercely competitive global industry. But we are confident that with our ethos of strong partnership working we can work together to deliver the best outcomes for both England and Britain.
"I look forward to starting this process with the regional engagement programme for the Discover England Fund which I will be leading in the coming weeks."
The proposals include:
- VisitBritain and VisitEngland will remain separate brands with ring-fenced budgets but will be one integrated business under the BTA, sharing corporate resources and services with front-line activity delivered by both dedicated and shared staff. There will be dedicated directors for England and for international markets alongside the CEO and a group of Directors representing both Britain and England.
- VisitBritain's international network is widely regarded as a great asset for tourism businesses as well as the nations and regions, delivering a depth of understanding of international customers and markets. VisitBritain will be investing more in the network, restructuring into four consolidated hubs with central teams that can be flexed across a wider range of markets. More senior people will be employed at the hubs and will take responsibility for key areas such as partnerships and public diplomacy engagement.
- VisitEngland's focus will be on the development and delivery of the Discover England Fund for product development to ensure that bookable regional product is being sold in international markets. This activity will also benefit the domestic industry by building engagement and partnerships between and across regions and developing product that will be attractive to both domestic and international markets.
The £40 million contestable fund is all to be spent on programme with no administration costs charged by VisitEngland against the programme fund. The England Director will lead on engagement, development and delivery of the fund and the England Action Plan, with an open regional engagement programme running through February and March. Andrew Stokes, previously CEO of Marketing Manchester, has been announced today as the interim Director, England.
- Digital will be at heart of marketing focusing on content creation, curation and distribution for England and Britain. The BTA will continue to be a partner of the UK Government's GREAT campaign working to deliver international marketing campaigns as well as the ‘Holidays at Home are GREAT' campaign domestically. Marketing to drive the aspiration to travel will be supported by work with the international travel trade and intermediaries to ensure that customers can easily book regional destinations. And this work will continue to be informed by knowledge of both domestic and international customers, delivered by dedicated England and Britain staff.
- Business visits and events are to become a priority for both VisitEngland and VisitBritain with a new team delivering an international platform for England and, at Britain level, working across Government to deliver key industry sector events. Both England and Britain will be on the newly formed cross-Government Business Visits and Events Board.
- VisitBritain and VisitEngland have been very successful at building private sector investment to multiply the Government's investment. This activity will be ramped up with the creation of a new directorship in London to build more commercial partnerships, drive growth in retail and leverage the supply side both domestically and internationally. The organisation will be looking to develop more strategic relationships with commercial partners, for example building marketing relationships to share knowledge of key customer segments and markets and align product development and distribution with intermediaries.
- In recognition of the importance of partnerships, the organisation is investing in a lead for England partner engagement who will ensure strong strategic relationships across the regions. Alongside this is a new team focused on proactive engagement with public diplomacy partners in London and overseas, and with the nations and regions
The proposals have been communicated to all British Tourist Authority staff across VisitEngland and VisitBritain this week, including internationally, with a 30-day internal global consultation period now underway. The final organisational structure is set to be agreed during February and March this year.