Great Britain: Questions and Answers

Jeff Hamblin discusses the future of tourism in Great Britain and its target marketing niches with contributing editor Marilee Crocker.

TW: How did Great Britain fare in the U.S. market in 1997?

Hamblin: So far this year we're running a shade over 15% up on last year, which is spectacular growth, given that last year we had 3.25 million Americans to Britain. That was a record year. Canadians added another 700,000. This year will set a new record by a long, long way.

The reasons are a very strong U.S. economy and tremendous consumer confidence. That consumer confidence is being reflected in travel patterns.

TW: What's your outlook for travel to Britain in 1998 and what factors do you see affecting that?

Hamblin: The economy in the U.S. is still forecast to be strong. We are looking to more growth, probably a bit more modest than this year. We expect next year to be another record, in the range of 5% to 10%.

To a certain extent a limiting factor will be airline capacity. This year, we have had an increase in capacity. If the increase in capacity comes next year too, the growth can be in excess of 10%.

TW: What impact do you expect the recent ASTA Congress in Glasgow to have on sales?

Hamblin: ASTA will be a pretty good contributory factor. We find if we can get a travel agent over to Britain, we will get about 12 incremental passengers as a result. Multiplying that out by 5,000 delegates in Glasgow -- I realize those are not all retail travel agents, but many of them are suppliers who are strong supporters of Britain -- we anticipate we would gain around another 60,000 incremental visitors. The increase in spending that would generate would be on the order of $60 million.

TW: What market niches is the BTA targeting in the U.S. in the year ahead?

Hamblin: This year we'll be looking at the youth market. We'll be doing some youth publications. We have established on university campuses what we call youth ambassadors. These are student ambassadors, people we have trained to boost the image of Britain in the minds of college students.

The baby boomers are very important to us, but by far the greatest effort will be going into people aged 50-plus. The reason is they have more flexibility about when they're able to travel. They tend to be repeat visitors and they tend not to be restricted in how long they can stay.

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The British Tourist Authority provides sales tools and promotional materials for travel agents. The BTA can be reached at (212) 986-2200 or (800) 462-2748 in New York City. A 24-hour fax-on-demand service is at (818) 441-8265, accessible from fax machine phones.

A promotional catalog is available through the Promote Britain Travel Programme. Call (800) 444-6603 or fax (513) 256-4611.

Detailed information is available from the following tourist offices:

Northern Ireland Tourist Board: (212) 922-0101, (800) 326-0036, fax (212) 922-0099.

Scottish Tourist Board: (011-44) 131-332-2433, fax (011-44) 131-315-3877;
S.C.O.T.S. agents may fax (800) 726-8785.

Wales Marketing USA: (212) 986-2266, fax (800) 95-WALES.

WEB SITES: The BTA's new Internet site is at www.visitbritain.com; Northern Ireland: www.ni-tourism.com; Scotland: www.holiday.scotland.net; Wales: www.tourism.wales.gov.uk.

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