As the national tourism agency – a non-departmental public body funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), VisitBritain (VB) plays a unique role in building England’s tourism product, raising Britain’s profile worldwide, increasing the volume and value of tourism exports and developing England and Britain’s visitor economy.
Working with a wide range of partners in both the UK and overseas, the organisation’s mission is to grow the volume and value of inbound tourism across the nations and regions of Britain and to develop world-class English tourism product to support its growth aspirations.
Tricia Warwick, Director, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, VisitBritain, speaks to NEETA LAL about the organisation’s plans for the Indian market, its importance, VB’s focus area in India and challenges they face here
How important is the India market for VisitBritain? Have footfalls grown from India recently to your country?
India is a very important market for VisitBritain and is identified as one of the top great markets for the UK when it comes to tourism. We also know that visitors from India rate Britain highly for its interesting and exciting culture and the vibrancy of its cities, with not only London but destinations like Scotland, Manchester and Liverpool holding huge appeal.
As per the International Passenger Survey results for Q1 2019, visits from India increased by 25% as compared to Q1 2018 with an overall increase of 13% in spends by Indians who travelled to the UK.
Reason for the surge in arrivals?
We have seen visitors from India evolve over the years from taking multi country trips to mono-country ones, spending more time and spending more on local experiences.
Visitors are more confident and with the ease of accessing information and content on mobiles, which in today’s world, forms a large percentage of our audience.
Visitors from India spend more in the UK and stay longer than the average inbound visitor, spending usually half their time outside London. In 2017, Indian travellers spent £808 on average on their visit in the UK, 29% more than the all-market average of £625. They stayed an average of 10 nights in 2017, more than the all-market average of 6.
With England hosting the Cricket World Cup in June & July, the tournament reach within India was 545 million across TV and digital platforms with Indian fans buying 41% of the tickets sold for the finals.
The cricket provided us with a fantastic and valuable opportunity to not only promote the destinations where the matches were played but to also put the spotlight on associated destinations and tourism activities and the amazing experiences that travelers can only have in Britain.
*Source: official ICC Media Release
What are the challenges you face in India?
We are witnessing an increase in customized itineraries from the Indian traveller that are more experiential in nature. These include unique experiences, coupled with an interest to indulge in the local cuisine.
In order to address this, we are developing new ‘themed’ products and itineraries as well as conducting product trainings for the Indian travel trade and our travel partners.
Our content and digital marketing inspires visitors from India to not only stay longer in Britain but to explore the countryside and cities beyond London.
We welcome all initiatives that improve our competitive tourism offer globally. The UK has 18 Visa Application Centres in India currently, more than in any other country, and has continued to expand its premium and priority services.
VisitBritain does not undertake visa processing, however we continue to talk to the India travel trade and businesses to understand their concerns.
What is your focus area in tapping the Indian market -- Cities? Or tier 2, 3 towns?
As part of our strategy, we have maintained focus on B2B and partnerships to develop and distribute Mono-Britain products to achieve seasonal and regional spread targets.
Connecting routes on Middle Eastern carriers have been providing access to travellers from Tier 1 and 2 cities within India to regional British cities including Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Who are your partners for the India market?
We are currently working with partners like British Airways, Thomas Cook, SOTC, MakeMyTrip, Oman Air and Wego among others to promote regional destinations and to make it easier for visitors to book and explore more of Britain.
VisitBritain’s content and digital marketing inspires visitors from India to not only stay longer in Britain but to explore the countryside and cities beyond London.
Why do you think Indian travellers should choose Britain as a travel/ leisure destination?
A perfect blend of city-life and countryside break works very well. Cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, York and Edinburgh have a lot to offer, ranging from the fixed tour itinerary to exploring the familiar yet the unexpected experiences.
The beautiful countryside of Lake District & the Scottish Highlands offer some of the best scenic views that the UK has to offer. Exploring the UK through a self-drive option is also recommended, even though trains make it simple to get from city–to-city.
There are lots of easy day trips that travellers can take to get outside of the cities and interact with locals, exploring the unique towns, breath-taking landscapes, countryside and coastlines.
Which are the most popular regions/trails in Britain for Indian travellers?
n We know that visitors from India rate the UK for its outstanding natural beauty, interesting and exciting contemporary culture, and the vibrancy of its cities, with destinations like Manchester and Liverpool holding huge appeal. When in the UK, Indian travellers like to go dining in restaurants, shopping, and visiting parks or gardens.
The range of experiences on offer include Michelin Star chef curated Indian food at Gilpin Spice in Lake District, VIP tours of Football clubs in Manchester to the ease of getting around in Liverpool by foot.
Any new popular tourism trends in GB with regard to Indian travellers?
As part of the Tourism Sector Deal that outlines the UK Government’s vision to work together in order to boost productivity, skills and innovation, VisitBritain is actively working towards increasing productivity in the sector across Britain by working with the trade both in the UK as well as India.
We know that London has its appeal as a Global city that attracts tourists worldwide. In line with our strategy in India, we are promoting iconic sites in London along with encouraging people to experience the unexpected side of the country.
We would like the trade to offer Mono-Britain itineraries that include London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh coupled with countryside breaks.
Is Brexit impacting Indians' choice of GB as a travel destination?
When considering visits from India to the UK, the latest statistics available are for January to March 2019. These show that there were 90,000 visits from India to the UK during this period, up 25% on January to March 2018.
Looking longer-term, the trend from our long-haul markets overall has been one of rapid growth, up 11% from 2016 to 2018.
Also, the UK’s accommodation, visitor attractions and shops continue to offer great value for travellers particularly from our long-haul markets such as India, so it really is a great time to book a trip right now.
With forward flight bookings overall to the UK from October 2019 to March next year tracking ahead compared to the same period last year, and up 17% when looking specifically at South Asia, we are confident of a strong festive season and beyond.