UK on site: BTA considers direct marketing

Travel Weekly editor in chief Nadine Godwin concludes her tour through the U.K. Her final report follows:

LONDON -- Jeff Hamblin, chief executive of the British Tourist Authority, responded positively to the concepts of "partnership marketing" with travel industry firms or trade groups that can target good candidates for travel to the U.K.

Last week, during a VIP tour for trade leaders meant to counter the negative effects of hoof-and-mouth disease on British tourism, Peter Tauck, co-president, Tauck World Discovery, and Jerri Ross, chief operating officer for the Giants agency cooperative, said they wanted to pursue direct-marketing campaigns to lists of proven travel buyers.

But, they said, their ability to pursue such plans would depend in part on funding support from the BTA.

Editor in chief Nadine Godwin.

Other companies seemed likely to make similar proposals.

In any case, Hamblin said such joint marketing "makes total sense." After all, he said, "One has more influence over people one knows" than among strangers.

This is as true for the BTA as for "the Taucks and the Giants of the world. We have several million contacts around the world and will use those lists, too.

"It makes total sense," Hamblin continued, "to do the same with our partners."

Using existing and proven distribution channels is the way forward, he said, and that means the trade.

In a separate interview, David Quarmby, BTA chairman, listed for Travel Weekly Crossroads a number of avenues the BTA wants to pursue soonest.

One item on that list was working with travel partners on various marketing plans. He also said the BTA aims to step up communications with the trade and beef up fam trip options.

Brian Stack, president of CIE Tours, repeated his earlier suggestion that the BTA use John Cleese as a celebrity spokesman in any ad campaign.

Quarmby said the BTA had already concluded it wanted to use celebrities in promotions and was developing a list of possible spokespersons.

The BTA's ability to implement elements of its recovery plan for U.K. tourism will hinge on its ability to gain major additional funding from the government.

Too early to analyze meetings market

LONDON -- Meeting planners don't cancel trips as quickly as do individual travelers planning vacations, and hence, Edwin Griffin Jr., president of Meeting Planners International, said it was too early to know the real effects of hoof-and-mouth disease in the U.K. on the meetings business.

Griffin was one of 24 guests on a British Tourist Authority-sponsored VIP tour to Scotland and the north of England, a trip meant to dispel views of the U.K. as unsuitable and even dangerous for tourism or business travel at this time.

The MPI executive said he believes the trip will have a desired positive effect of providing more accurate information about the U.K. and that it will help to "assure meeting planners that they should feel comfortable continuing with plans to come to the U.K."

He said planners are "reluctant to pull the plug [on a meeting]. They would want to be sure that the cancellation is in the best interests" of everyone.

While he cannot yet project the real impact of the hoof-and-mouth crisis on meetings, he estimated there will "probably be few cancellations, but there could have been more" if no one acted to reassure planners.

He said the BTA trip was a good first step, but the British government, he continued, "needs to make a major effort to widely disseminate the facts regarding food and safety issues."

Meanwhile, at the trip's end, he said he would be posting a report on the MPI Web site, a site that gets 77,000 visits per month. He said he would print a report in the group's magazine and issue a press release as well.

Meanwhile, another guest on the VIP tour, Mike Spinelli, president, Action 6 agency consortium, said he will be disseminating his report on the U.K. experience to his membership in a newsletter and via fax and e-mail.

"Anything I can do to discuss this with members, I will do over and over," he said, adding he believes the CRSs should be asked to post basic information about hoof-and-mouth disease that will help agents answer clients' questions and provide reassurance.

Spinelli said he also will put a report on the U.K. trip on the Action 6 Web site which member agents are able to use with their own branding and make available to their customers. In that way, his report would be read by the public as well as by travel agents.

Get more:
U.K. on site: Scotland is delegation's first stop
U.K. on site: Day two, delegates meet the press
U.K. on site: Into the eye of hoof-and-mouth
U.K. on site: Blair looks toward brighter future

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI