Investing in Tourism

By | Category: Travel rumblings

As the new year starts, countries around the world are planning on how much to spend promoting their countries not just to us but the whole world. All countries want more visitors because, of course, it boosts their economies. Thailand, for example, has announced that it wants $196 million (say about £125 million) for 2012. Norway, on the other hand, is spending just £300,000 on the UK this year. And how much is the UK planning to spend? That’s not known yet but last year the government challenged the industry to raise £100 million to promote the country over the next 4 years. They will announce, in the spring, how they plan to spend the money. But the £100 million has been raised.
It was announced last week that five lead companies, British Airways, P&O, DFDS, lastminute.com and Radisson Edwardian Hotels and others not yet named would match the £50 from Visit Britain either in cash or kind so that the £100 would be met. This, according to Visit Britain, will result in an extra 4 million visitors, 50,000 new jobs and £2 billion being spent by those visitors. Jeremy Hunt, the Culture secretary of state under whom tourism falls, said British companies have “dug deep.” Have they? To raise only about a fifth over 4 years of what Thailand wants to spend in just one? Imagine if we spent the same sort of money. Does that mean we could fund 250,000 new jobs, £10 billion being spent by visitors and 20 million visitors?
Although any figures should always be taken with a pinch of salt, this seems a pretty paltry sum in the scheme of things. British Airways will spend tens of millions in attracting passengers not just through marketing. And given that these sums are for contributions in kind as well, the “true” value of the money pledged will probably be even less. But where are Virgin Atlantic, (normally at the forefront of self-publicity)flybe, easyJet, bmi, BAA, Eurostar and the big hotel chains. Where are the other ferry companies, the cruise lines, the theatre groups and the attractions? Since we have that wedding, the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta all coming up are there companies who are thinking the visitors will come anyway and why stump up money? And what is being pledged to encourage domestic travel?
But maybe the announcement was made to help shame the others into coming forward and really finding some money for promoting the UK. Or maybe I’m just naïve.

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