Britain Comes Bouncing Back

The U.K. is luring visitors with an aggressive marketing campaign and agent outreach

By: Richard J. Simpson

LOS ANGELES In the wake of foot-and-mouth disease, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and a decline in U.S. visitors from 4 million in 2000 to 3.5 million in 2001, according to a British Tourist Authority official the British government and tourism officials are optimistic they will reap the rewards of the most ambitious joint ad campaign in the country’s history.

The Only in Britain, Only in 2002 campaign is the product of a combined investment of $35 million from the U.K. Government and partners from the tourism industry such as American Express, British Airways and Hilton Hotels. The campaign consists of such elements as a Web site (www.britain2002. org), print advertising, direct marketing, public relations, travel agent participation and TV commercials that were launched in the United States in May.

Retailer Reassurance

Dr. Kim Howells, Britain’s minister of tourism, told TravelAge West that retailers play a key role in bringing visitors back to Britain: “People want reassurance and comfort, and they can only get that from a travel agent.”

One way the BTA is reaching out to travel agents is by encouraging travelers to book through them. Robin Prestage, a BTA spokesman noted that all advertising for the Only in Britain, Only in 2002 campaign directs consumers to the Web site for more information but also recommends that they ultimately contact their travel agents. The Web site does not allow for direct booking.

“The last thing you see on the ad is the Web site, and [the qualifier] is ‘See your travel agent,’” Prestage said.

A new incentive for agents is the recently launched, online version of the BritAgent Destination Specialist Program, which certifies them as specialists in selling travel to England, Scotland and Wales. Upon completion of the training program, agents are provided with instant access to accurate information, up-to-the-minute vacation ideas and sales collateral. Benefits include a free, 12-month, subscription to the BTA’s In Britain magazine, unlimited promotional postcards and a monthly newsletter. In addition, the annual fee for the program has been reduced from $200 to $75.

The BTA is also working to form an advisory group that will include travel industry specialists, “the bulk of which will be travel agents,” said Christine Braganza, the BTA’s Los Angeles-based director of marketing for the western region.