U.K.'s old industrial centers turn to tourism


NEW YORK -- The British Tourist Authority will roll out two promotions for 2001, focusing on Britain's cities and gardens.

BTA chairman David Quarmby said the organization soon will issue a brochure titled U.K. City Culture, with information on a dozen urban centers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The guide will cover cultural attractions and activities in each city, including things like opera, theater, dance, shopping and dining.

A new British Tourist Authority guide will cover activities of interest in urban centers, such as shopping. Above, one of England's most famous shops, Harrod's of London. Although much attention in the past year has focused on the Millennium sites and attractions in and around London, Quarmby noted that many British cities have been making similar improvements in their tourist infrastructure, and BTA wants to get the word out about that.

For example, many older, industrial centers in Britain have revitalized their docks or riverbanks with new shopping and restaurant complexes, he said.

Besides London, cities covered in the brochure include Belfast, Northern Ireland; Glasgow, Scotland; Cardiff, Wales, and Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Bath, Bristol and Brighton, England.

There will be a corresponding Web site at www.ukcityculture.com.

Meanwhile, BTA early next year will launch a promotion of British gardens, with the publication of a visitors' map and the opening of a special Web site extension at www.visitbritain.com/gardens.

"Britain is the No. 1 destination for gardens worldwide," Quarmby said, "because we have more of them that are open to the public than anywhere else in the world."

Glasgow is among several industrial cities in the U.K. that have been revived as tourist centers in the past decade. Above, George Square. The new map will include locations and information on some 100 of Britain's most famous gardens, some privately owned and some publicly held, but all open to visitors.

The Web site will be more comprehensive, with information on some 400 gardens, he said, including opening and closing hours and admission.

The campaign is focused on the independent traveler, Quarmby said, but the BTA's regional offices will work with the trade to assist them in developing garden-oriented packages for groups.

Both promotions also should help the BTA toward its goal of steering more inbound tourists to places other than London, which attracts about half of all visitor numbers and visitor spending.

Timothy Lovell, the BTA's vice president, USA, said he expects visitor numbers from the U.S. to climb by about 2% this year, topping the 4 million mark for the first time, with spending expected to grow to more than $4.5 billion.

He and Quarmby said that the rest of Europe is anticipating an even greater increase from the U.S., which they attribute to the fact that the euro has declined significantly more than the pound against the U.S. dollar.

Quarmby said the BTA is expecting another increase in visitors next year, even though the agency has put so much emphasis on trips to Britain during the millennium year.

To that end, BTA will again sponsor its annual road show for travel agents next winter, which is expected to draw 2,000 retailers, Lovell said.

He added that BTA also is expecting to attract more members of the trade into its destination training program, BritAgent Specialist, which currently has 446 graduates and should grow to about 1,000.

Agents who earn that designation are listed on the BTA's Web site and are given referrals from BTA and priority for agency fam trips.

Lovell also noted that the BTA's site, now in its third year, has significantly eased the burden for the telephone staff at the organization's information center in New York, where consumers and agents can call a toll-free number for assistance in travel planning.

The Web site now is drawing some 125,000 visits a month, he said, while call volume at the information center, which peaked at 35,000 calls per month, has dropped to around 20,000.

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