2012 – Our best ever tourism year

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Tuesday 14 August 2012 Tate Modern, London CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Tate Modern. In just 12 years this has…

Tuesday 14 August 2012
Tate Modern, London


It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Tate Modern. In just 12 years this has become the world’s busiest and most famous contemporary art gallery - perhaps the best single example of our restless determination to develop and improve what our nation offers both in culture and tourism.

And after this year there’s every reason to think this great attraction will be even busier in years to come.

An Olympics triumph which showed the country welcoming the world with professionalism, warmth and even sunshine…

A Jubilee and an Olympics that showed us at ease with a glorious history and a vibrant present - witnessed by a global audience of millions, with the Opening Ceremony alone watched by almost a billion.

A Torch Relay and London 2012 Festival that showcased cultural and tourist treasures in every corner of the country…

Extraordinary shows and exhibitions like Freud, Leonardo, Frankenstein, Richard III and Matilda…

New places to visit from the Turner Contemporary to the Hepworth to the Harry Potter studios…

And old favourites restored like the Cutty Sark…

Whatever the doomsters may say about the economy, we should be proud that our cultural and tourism sectors are investing in the future with optimism, confidence and panache.

When I became Culture Secretary I was very conscious of the criticism that successive governments have undervalued tourism. So, in my first month as a Minister, I gave a speech at the new Olympic sailing venue in Weymouth saying I would address this.

Let’s look at what has been achieved.


**First of all we have seen the launch of the first ever cross-government campaign to market the UK overseas. Bringing together the Foreign Office, the British Council, UKTI and Visit Britain, the GREAT campaign is our biggest ever investment in marketing the UK, a campaign that has turned heads and really taken the fight for tourist dollars into our key tourist markets.

  • We’ve stopped traffic at the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo with a GREAT double decker bus;

  • We’ve draped New Delhi taxis in red, white and blue;

  • We’ve taken British film to the red carpet of LA during the Oscars;

  • We’ve lit up Shanghai with GREAT projections on the Aurora building overlooking the mighty Huangpu river;

  • In the US, millions saw Victoria Beckham championing British fashion on a GREAT Britain-branded subway at Grand Central Station, New York;

  • On Sugarloaf mountain in Rio, thousands of journalists wrote, spoke, blogged or tweeted about David Beckham and Prince Harry as they promoted Britain;

  • And, my favourite, six out of ten Parisians discovered that unlike the Louvre, the British Museum is free thanks to a “Culture is GREAT Britain” poster mounted just outside the Louvre main entrance.

Indeed the highest praise of all came from the country that can often be our sternest critic when the French newspaper La Tribune said that GREAT is the most effective global marketing campaign since the Big Apple campaign for New York.

Back then in Weymouth I pledged £1bn publicity for the UK on the back of the Olympics. Thanks to the GREAT campaign, I am delighted to say we have delivered more than three times that amount of positive PR for Britain in key target markets.

I also said in Weymouth we would back our domestic tourism industry. We all love holidaying abroad - and there’s nothing wrong with that. Indeed the falling cost of overseas holidays has been one of the great social advances of the last half century. But we should not neglect our domestic tourism industry, whether for day trips, weekend breaks or family holidays.

So for the first time ever we have had a £6 million national TV and cinema advertising campaign promoting holidays at home. The ad, featuring Rupert Grint, Julie Walters, Stephen Fry and Michelle Dockery has reached more than 7 out of 10 holiday makers and generated 300,000 extra hotel nights in its first three months alone.

The worm has turned, and no longer will domestic tourism be the poor relation when it comes to big marketing campaigns for the domestic tourism pound. And rightly so - because to suggest we need to choose between either a strong domestic offer or a strong international offer is a false dichotomy. The bigger the domestic market, the more investment we will stimulate in quality accommodation and attractions - and the more international visitors we will attract.

**Answering the critics of the Games
So we are taking the fight to our rivals in key markets abroad and determined to win the battle for tourism spend at home.

In doing so, we’re tackling head-on two big myths.

The first is that hosting an Olympic Games is bad for business. In the run up to this year, critics said we’d see huge displacement, with people staying away from the UK in droves because of the crowds and the cost.

The truth is that we’ve seen record-breaking figures for spend and holiday visits from overseas in 2012, even taking into account the blip we’ve seen in the June figures. Visa says that London spend in restaurants is up nearly 20% on a year ago, nightclub spending is up 24%, and spending on theatre and other tickets has doubled.

Far from seeing a bloodbath, Andrew Lloyd Webber has seen sales for his shows increase by 25%. He has generously said that he “has been proved wrong” and “couldn’t be more delighted.”

Quite simply, stories of “ghost town” London are not borne out by the facts:

  • Retailers in Bond Street, Oxford and Regent Street all reported a surge in sales and footfall during the Super Saturday weekend;

  • Tube traffic has been at record levels with over four and a half million journeys on some days last week - the highest number for one day in London Underground’s history;

  • And hotels have been extremely busy - Richard Solomons has talked of 90 per cent occupancy across Intercontinental properties. Many other London hoteliers report they were at least 80% full, and up on the same days last year.

Now I’m pleased to say that hoteliers are looking at new and creative ways to extend the party. Premier Inn, for example, will be celebrating TeamGB’s gold medal haul of 29 by offering 29,000 London rooms at £49 for bookings made until 22nd August.

Of course, we were always going to see changes in visitor patterns during such a big year and there are inevitably some businesses that suffer short term consequences.

But we should never underestimate the long term impact of securing London’s place in as one of the most buzzy and exciting cities on the planet - and the massive upside that offers to all businesses based here.

Nor should we underestimate the power of the Olympic Park to become a new tourist attraction - with the superb landscaping, facilities, transport and views that it offers.

**A long term commitment to tourism
Which takes me to the second myth.

Ufi Ibrahim of the BHA said in June that when it comes to tourism the Government is “all talk, no action,” and that we don’t take tourism seriously.

Let me gently remind Ufi that when I arrived in office there was no fully-developed tourism strategy for the Olympics. Getting that right always needed to be the first priority. How could anyone who cares about tourism waste a billion pound opportunity to put ourselves on the map?

And critics are plain wrong to say that this is only about the short term.

Let’s look at the changes that have been made with long term impact that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Olympics.

Firstly, John Penrose and I promised to cut the red tape that was choking tourism.

  • So in the last two years we’ve curbed regulations on food labelling, on no smoking signs and on arcade entertainment;

  • We’ve changed the VAT rules on holiday lets;

  • We’re consulting to change live entertainment licensing to help the entertainment industry; and

  • We’re giving industry and consumers control of star rating quality schemes.

We also said we’d improve support for tourism organisations at a local level.

And notwithstanding the difficult financial environment, we’ve now seen a steady expansion of destination management organisations, bringing tourism back to its local roots.

We’re also working with sector skills bodies to increase apprenticeships and training, to create the pipeline of trained staff necessary for future success.

On top of which planning reforms in the localism bill will make it much easier for tourism attractions to invest and expand.

And looking further ahead, transport developments such as HS2 will tackle one of the biggest challenges we face, namely how to get the 50% of international visitors who come to London but never move beyond the capital to discover everything the rest of the country has to offer.

But as a government we can only create a climate that helps investment and expansion. And that means the support of the entire industry. I hope this year has shown what a strong partnership can achieve.

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**The future
But if we are to truly exploit our potential as the sixth most visited tourism destination, there is much more to do.

Today, the whole country is riding high on a wave of global, Olympic excitement. In Shakespeare’s words: “On such a full sea are we now afloat… We must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures”.

In such a landmark year, with so much in our favour, isn’t now the time to go further, to make this Olympic year a real turning point for UK tourism? To step up, if you like, from being a creditable finalist to winning the gold medal.

So today I want to invite the tourism industry to embrace some ambitious goals:

  • To commit as a government and an industry to increasing the number of overseas visitors to the UK from just over 30 million today to 40 million by 2020;

  • To make 2012 the turning point for our domestic tourism industry - and make sure the UK is always promoted as actively to its home market as overseas destinations promote theirs in the UK;

  • To exploit the extraordinary role that sport has as a magnet for tourism by exploiting the opportunities presented by hosting world cups in rugby league, rugby union and cricket, not to mention the Ryder Cup and the Champions League final, the Commonwealth  Games in 2014 and the World Athletics Championships in the Olympic stadium in 2017;

  • To build on the incredible success of the London Festival 2012 by binding the cultural and tourism industries much more closely together as we develop Britain’s reputation as the global capital of culture.
    To support this, I am today announcing new initiatives on both the domestic and international tourism front.

**Domestic tourism

**On the domestic front, I will today commit that the domestic tourism advertising campaign we saw earlier this year will not be our last.

That’s why we will invest a further £2 million in a follow up campaign next year, to be increased further with match-funding, in order to build on the success of the 20.12 per cent ‘Holiday at Home’ campaign.

The Olympic Torch Relay has really helped to ignite domestic interest in UK holidays. In fact, about one in ten expect to visit a destination off the back of seeing the Olympic flame there. But it is still too difficult to book domestic holiday packages on the web.

So Visit England has committed to double the number of domestic package breaks being booked in the years ahead by bringing together website retailers, car rental groups, train companies, airlines and hotel groups.

**Cultural tourism
Following this extraordinary year, I also want us to capitalise on the successes we have achieved in developing cultural tourism. Tony Hall and Ruth Mackenzie deserve enormous credit for putting together the London 2012 Festival, which has already been enjoyed by around 10 million people across the country, with more opportunities still to come - surely the biggest and best Cultural Olympiad ever.

How can we build on this? One promising idea is to have a London Biennale - a bi-annual London or UK-wide arts festival to celebrate the best of what we have to offer culturally. I have therefore asked Tony and Ruth to do a report for me on the feasibility of such a festival, how much it would cost and how it should be delivered.

**2013- A Focus on China
Finally, how can we keep up the tremendous momentum we have achieved in marketing the UK internationally?

Today I am announcing a continuation of the GREAT campaign next year with an £8 million focus on one of the world’s fastest growing economies, China.

Only around 150,000 Chinese tourists visited our shores last year, a figure that is way down on that of our major competitors such as Germany and France. The numbers are rising, but it is still estimated that France attracts between 25 and 50% more Chinese visitors than the UK.

We simply cannot afford such a comparatively small share of such an important market.

Nobody should underestimate the opportunity China and its cities represent:

  • By 2025, Shanghai is expected to be the third richest city in the world;

  • Five other Chinese cities - Shenzhen, Tianjin, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu - are expected to be among the top 20 globally for GDP growth;

  • And by 2030, China should have around 1.4 billion middle class consumers - creating a potential market four times bigger than America.

We must get on the front foot. Through this new campaign, I want us to treble the number of Chinese visitors we attract, getting to 500,000 by 2015. This alone will generate more than £0.5 billion additional visitor spend a year and create 14,000 more jobs.

We will be increasing our marketing in China’s major cities, not just in Shanghai and Beijing, but also some of the other major cities where we know there are big gains to be had.

We’ll also be looking at improvements to the visa system and work with airlines and aviation authorities to improve the number of flight connections to China.

2012 already has far too many firsts to be able to list:

  • The greatest 45 minutes in our sporting history, thanks to Jess Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah;

  • A breathtaking London 2012 Festival, our biggest ever summer of culture;

  • The creativity and fun of Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony, which amazed and delighted 900 million people around the world;

  • Our historic sites - Hampton Court, The Mall, Horseguards - and the new venues on the Olympic Park: all looking their best and projecting the best image of Britain, both heritage and contemporary.

  • And then our volunteers - the Games Makers and London Ambassadors and UK-wide Ambassadors - showing the world a friendliness that has never perhaps been associated with Britain before.

But the biggest opportunity is yet to come.

The Olympics should be for Britain what Usain Bolt is for athletics - something that grabs the attention of the whole world and refuses to let it go.

We must use this extraordinary year to turbo-charge our tourism industry. To create jobs and prosperity on the back of a globally-enhanced reputation. And to show that when we talk about Olympic legacy, tourism is an opportunity we seized and ran with all the way to the finishing line.