LONDON -- The British capital has a new outlook on tourism
promotion, thanks to a revamped tourist board that's both flush
with cash and busy reinventing how the destination markets itself.
Visit London, known until last July as the London Tourist Board
and Convention Bureau, used the recent World Travel Market show
here to trumpet its latest efforts, including new booking
capabilities at its Visitlondon.com Web site; a marketing division of
London into five subregions; increased co-marketing efforts with
private concerns; continued efforts to grow niche business; and a
new corporate look.
All this -- including a Visit London booth at the show six times
the size of previous incarnations -- was made possible by some $34
million in promotion funds furnished by Mayor Ken Livingstone, who
this year rededicated his administration's commitment to
The organization's new name was taken from its longstanding Web
address, while its streamlined logo was commissioned to project an
"instantly recognizable, highly readable and versatile" market
At World Travel Market, Visit London debuted accommodations
booking functionality at its redesigned Web site -- targeted for
now to U.K. and European visitors -- that offers consumers a
"best-price guarantee" on direct reservations at a range of two- to
five-star properties across the city.
Deputy chief executive Sandra Elliott said Visit London isn't
turning its back on travel agents but instead is simply addressing
new market realities with complementary efforts.
"We recognize that large numbers of long-haul travelers will
book through travel agencies, and we want to work with operators
and agents; there's no question of moving away from that model,"
"But we also recognize that there's a growing body of consumers
who are able and want to make their own reservations online,"
Online bookability of discount accommodations rates enables
Visit London to address that need, she noted, as well as to tackle
the common perception of the London hotel stay as an overly
Other new booking options at the site include theater and events
tickets and restaurant reservations. A full rollout of online
booking capability from the U.S. is planned for the spring.
While busy making Visitlondon.com an all-in-one, citywide
booking and information resource, Visit London also is engaged in
diversification, dividing London into more easily marketed -- and
digested -- tourism subregions: north, south, east, west and
For example, showgoers at World Travel Market found a "New
London" stand jointly occupied by suppliers from South
Bank/Bankside (also marketed as Riverside London), the Pool of
London and East London.
Each region publishes maps, guidebooks and Web sites
highlighting area attractions.
"We have responsibility for marketing London in its entirety,
but we're also trying to make it more manageable and meaningful in
promotional terms," said Elliott.
"But we're not forcing [suppliers] into identifying with the
subregions, as there are some products that are pan-London or would
not fit neatly into a particular subregion."
Another area of diversification for Visit London is an ongoing
focus on niche markets, including business/incentives travelers,
gays and lesbians, and, of late, luxury vacationers.
To wit, sales reps at the new Visit London booth at World Travel
Market were busy handing out copies of the latest editions of the
Incentive London and Gay London guides.
"Mainstream leisure continues to be an enormously important
market, but over and above that, there are a number of niches that
we're developing," said Elliott, stressing the economic impact of
business and alternative lifestyle travelers.
But luxury looks to be the next big niche -- particularly from
the U.S. East Coast, which Visit London is scouting out as the
latest short-break and weekend-stay source market for "very
well-heeled, cash-rich and time-poor" customers, Elliott said.
"There's certainly a shift, particularly after 9/11, to grasp
the moment," she said. "From the East Coast, London is a five- to
six-hour flight, doable for a weekend, and you can pack in an awful
lot in three days here.
"We're developing some mechanisms to reach those people,
determine what sort of messages they want to hear about London, how
we should be addressing them and through which channels, as well as
who might be the partners or allies we might line up in order to
deliver that," Elliott added.
One way, it turns out, is to co-market with mass media, such as
the movie industry. Visit London debuted a film-fan map
highlighting spots seen in the movie "Love Actually," which was
filmed in the city.
The free map -- which features 24 churches, squares, museums,
streets, shops and other locales film fans might like to visit --
is the first in a planned series of such ventures.
Visit London also is making much of its public/private
partnership with local visitor pass purveyor Leisure Pass Group,
which sells the high-tech, all-in-one London Pass discount card,
and -- as of January -- the similar London Business Card for
visitors in the city on business.
The passes "tackle value and convenience [concerns], and we know
those are the buttons we need to keep pushing, particularly for
short-break visitors who want to maximize their time in London,"
For more on Visit London, log on to www.visitlondon.com/traveltrade or contact
VisitBritain at (800) 462-2748.
To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].