Could tourism become Britain's fastest-growing industry?
I was honoured to be invited to speak on Tuesday night at the annual World Travel Market (WTM).
This is key date in the international travel trade calendar, attended by more than 45,000 travel professionals from around the world. It has been running for 32 years, and has become a huge business-to-business opportunity, where millions of pounds worth of deals are done every year.
The fact that London hosts this key annual event shows just important the UK is to the international tourism industry, and how important tourism is to the UK’s economy.
Tourism is currently our fifth biggest industry, but with a billion global travellers and emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil providing growing consumer bases, there is potential for it to be our fastest growing sector in the next 10 years.
The tourism industry had a vital role this summer with the Olympic and Paralympic Games and will continue to do so. Our tourism industry helps us sell Britain, helps contribute to economic growth and helps drive investment. That is why we believe tourism is key to the UK’s growth strategy.
We already know that the global spotlight of the Olympic and Paralympic Games helped to generate real economic success with record tourist spend of £598 million in August 2012, up nine per cent on 2011.
But there is no room for complacency. But we are in a global race, and face tough completion from established and emerging markets. We must maintain the momentum of the summer if we are to continue to reap the benefits of the Games’ success.
Never before has the opportunity to travel been open to so many people. This provides huge economic opportunities for a major tourism destination like Britain, but it also heightens the competition. It is absolutely vital that if we are to compete in the global travel sector, our tourism industry keeps its edge and maintains high levels of ambition and innovation, continuing to adjust to offer attractive and exciting opportunities.
The fantastically creative GREAT campaign is helping us achieve this. As the UK’s biggest ever marketing campaign, GREAT is working across Government to showcase why our country is such a fantastic place to visit, study and do business. Residents from 14 major global cities like Beijing, Sydney, Rio and Toronto, have already seen adverts showcasing what is best about Britain. We are on track to bring in additional 4.6 million visitors to the UK over four years, generating £2.3 billion in visitor spend and creating 57,000 jobs.
And early forecasts on the financial returns from on investment in the GREAT campaign are really encouraging. Analysis shows the campaign to date is projected to help generate around a quarter of a billion pounds for the British economy over the next two years.
Travel matters to people, it matters to the economy and it can contribute to the growth and prosperity of a nation. The foundations of our history are rooted in exploration and travel and I am sure that the foundations of our future will be too.