BTA merger to bring new name to U.K. tourism

NEW YORK -- The British Tourist Authority (BTA) will undergo a name change in the spring as part of a British government-ordered merger with the 3-year-old English Tourism Council.

As of April 1, the two tourism boards will combine their efforts to promote the U.K. abroad and England within Great Britain; BTA CEO Tom Wright will be at the helm of the new body.

A joint name should be announced in coming months.

Despite the incorporation of the domestic marketing of England, new overseas promotions by the reconfigured BTA will not favor the destination over Scotland and Wales, said a BTA spokeswoman in New York.

"From the point of view of an overseas BTA office, the merger doesn't affect what we do, which is marketing [all of] Britain to America," the spokeswoman said. "We have always had to represent Scotland and Wales, so this shouldn't tip the balance."

Most U.S. promotion of Northern Ireland, the fourth constituent part of the U.K., is now handled by Tourism Ireland -- a new marketing body formed by the Irish Tourist Board and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board on Jan. 1 -- although the BTA does continue some marketing of the province.

Still, England has always been the big gun in the BTA's arsenal; in 2001, 88% of the $17.5 billion spent by foreign visitors to Great Britain was forked out in England proper, according to the BTA.

The merger plans follow the debut of a new, three-year BTA marketing plan the organization said is designed to boost tourism income, render overseas promotions "the best in the world," provide a framework for greater partnership among British suppliers and address new concerns.

Those include the base of more Web-savvy consumers; increased competition from "higher-quality destinations"; the impact of budget airlines on the short-breaks market; and the growth of emerging source markets such as China, Russia and Poland.

Another key component of the "Leading the World to Britain" plan is to assemble an overseas customer database of 6 million active records by 2006.

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