Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the British Tourist Authority


  1.1  Tourism is one of the largest and most important industries in Britain. It is worth more than £64 billion per year, employs c 1.8 million people—7 per cent of the UK's workforce—and contributes 4 per cent of the nation's GDP.

  1.2  The British Tourist Authority (BTA), together with the English, Scottish and Welsh Tourist Boards (the national boards) were created in 1969 by the Development of Tourism Act. BTA was charged with encouraging people living overseas to visit Great Britain whilst the national boards were given responsibility for promoting their respective countries domestically within Britain.

  1.3  Originally, the national tourist boards were not given powers to market their countries overseas, but this was changed for Scotland in 1984, and for Wales in 1992. The English Tourist Board, now trading as the English Tourism Council, has never been granted them.

  1.4  BTA's role is to build the value of tourism to Britain, generating additional tourism revenue throughout Britain, throughout the year. BTA operates in 27 overseas markets and works in partnership with the national tourism boards for England, Wales, Scotland and, by special agreement, Northern Ireland, to promote an attractive image of Britain. BTA provides impartial tourism information and gathers essential market intelligence for the UK tourism industry.


  Before the outbreak of FMD in Britain, spending by overseas visitors was expected to rise in 2001 by around 2 per cent, to an estimated £13 billion. Based on intelligence supplied by its overseas offices and figures being circulated by the travel trade and the national and regional tourist boards, the British Tourist Authority estimates that inbound tourism for 2001 will now be between 10-20 per cent short of its original forecasts. In financial terms this means a likely drop in revenue of between £1.5-£2.5 billion.

  The outbreak is having a severe impact on inbound tourism, and not just in contaminated or restricted areas. Estimates of potential losses are at least £120 million per week throughout Britain, with at least £100 million per week lost just in England. This is likely to have increased significantly over the Easter period. Of course, the longer-term damage to the industry and the figure of overall losses is difficult to quantify and will be dependent on the extent and duration of the outbreak.

  International media coverage has been extensive, and has been mixed in terms of accuracy. Consequently, many markets are misinformed about foot and mouth, eg should we bring our own food? Is there any food in the restaurants? etc. In the last week, there have been numerous positive stories about the re-opening of tourist attractions and footpaths around the UK, which all contributes to the message that Britain is "open for business".

  However, feedback from BTA's overseas offices, shows that the restrictions placed on access to some areas of Britain is only one of the concerns that are keeping visitors away; there are other equally strong issues—whether real or perceived—about health and safety in the UK.

  BTA has identified 10 markets (Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Irish Republic, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland and the USA), where the impact of FMD has been most severe and from which levels of visitors to Britain are likely to be heavily reduced. It is clear in these markets that we have extensive work to do in the short term in providing reassurance and factual information on foot and mouth disease and, in the longer term, in rebuilding Britain's image as a tourist destination.

  Several of our offices—especially those in the near European markets and in the US—report a high number of enquiries from concerned travellers, while trade partners report cancellations into the autumn. The business tourism sector is more resilient than the leisure sector, although conference/delegate numbers are down.

  The longer the crisis continues, the greater the long-term damage is likely to be to Britain's image as a tourism destination (it took five years for the US market to recover fully from the Gulf War).


  BTA believes that tourism has a responsibility to support farmers and help eradicate foot and mouth disease, but its primary concern is to safeguard the long-term interests of the tourism industry, especially the small and medium sized businesses who are most affected by the outbreak and are characteristic of rural tourism.

  BTA wants to ensure that visitors' travel plans are only changed where absolutely necessary. It also wants to minimise the long-term damage to Britain's image as a tourism destination, so that full recovery is as speedy as possible.



  BTA convened an internal Immediate Action Group on 2 March, which has met daily since then.

  BTA has set up a foot and mouth steering group and an implementation group to guide BTA activities throughout the outbreak. These two groups will finalise the recovery plan and co-ordinate communication with a number of audiences, both here and overseas eg UK and overseas trade, consumers, Government, staff and media. Foot and mouth matters will take priority over other work commitments.

  BTA has produced a Recovery Marketing Plan for the industry covering action to address the affects of FMD in the immediate, medium and long-term. The total plan is estimated to cost in excess of £20 million, for which additional government funding will be required. To date, BTA has received commitment from the Government for £2.2 million of additional funding towards its planned recovery activity. This money, combined with monies held over from BTA's 2000-01 grant-in-aid, will only be sufficient to address the immediate situation, such as our planned global PR activity over the next few months. We have, of course, welcomed this financial contribution to handling, rebutting and reversing the international media portrayal of Britain; but we have made it clear to Government that we see this £2.2 million as only being the first tranche of further substantial investment.

  The Committee should note that it is now BTA's firm conviction that the second tranche of money, totalling £8 million, is now required to undertake tactical advertising and further PR activity.

  BTA has been concentrating on providing accurate information to potential visitors and was requested by the Prime Minister to produce a new website to promote open attractions and events in Britain. We completed this formidable task in one weekend. The new website——features a searchable database of attractions and events, and shows that 80 per cent of attractions are open as normal. Links to the new website can be found from all gateway and campaign sites, and it also features a "visitor's charter" on visiting the countryside.

  BTA has published a "Visitors' Charter" on its website——which is being used as BTA's primary news/PR tool. As well as advice on travelling to and around Britain, visitors can get up-to-date information on attractions, events and activities. There are already 1,100 attraction details on the site and this will increase as more information comes through from the trade.

  Regular reports from our overseas offices are compiled to provide government and the industry with an indication of how the FMD outbreak in Britain is being perceived overseas, and an estimation of the likely impact on visitor numbers in both the short and medium term. A daily briefing is sent to the Rt Hon Chris Smith MP, and a weekly parliamentary briefing is sent to 80 key MPs, MSPs and AMs. Detailed briefings have also been sent to The Royal Household and relevant Cabinet members in the UK, Welsh and Scottish governments.

  At the same time, BTA is providing daily bulletins to our overseas offices to keep them abreast of developments and share best practice in responding to the crisis.

  In addition to briefing the trade press, BTA has written to 10,000 trade contacts on its database to update them of BTA's activities in response to FMD and advise them on their own response.

  Last week, BTA and FCO Minister Brian Wilson MP briefed the nine Ambassadors to the UK from Britain's most affected overseas markets to ensure that consistent messages are being delivered by overseas governments to their own countries.


  BTA overseas call and visitor centres continue to deal with thousands of enquiries each day. All offices have now held briefings for both the media and the travel trade to set the facts straight and provide reassurance about travelling to and within Britain. The New York call centre is currently handling c 700 enquiries a day about foot and mouth and travelling to Britain.

  Regular reports from our overseas offices have been compiled to provide government and the industry with an indication of how the FMD outbreak in Britain is being perceived overseas, and the likely impact on visitor numbers in both the short and medium term.

  Briefings for both the media and the travel trade have been held in many of the markets most affected by the outbreak, designed to set the facts straight and provide reassurance about travelling to and within Britain.

  BTA is also commissioning research into consumer perceptions in its 10 most affected markets, to benchmark reaction to FMD and establish the propensity to travel to Britain.

  BTA has appointed a global PR agency, GCI, to work in all our 27 markets to minimise the negative perceptions of Britain in the short term and, in the longer term, help rebuild image.

  An analysis of how foot and mouth has been covered in overseas media is attached as an appendix to this submission.


  Last week, BTA brought over a group of 40 travel industry leaders from around the world to see for themselves the impact of FMD. The World Travel Leaders' Summit secured third party endorsement that, in spite of FMD, Britain remains an attractive and safe destination for overseas visitors. Summit participants have returned to their respective countries ready and equipped to encourage the travel trade to sell Britain with confidence to overseas audiences.

  The presidents of national travel writers associations and travel agents from our nine key overseas markets visited Inverness, Loch Ness, Cawdor Castle, Edinburgh Castle, the Lake District, Portmeirion, Snowdonia, Devon and London. On arrival at Heathrow (Tuesday 17) they were met by Tourism Minister Janet Anderson MP, who saw the two groups off as they departed to various parts of the UK.

  In Edinburgh, one group comprising guests from Long Haul markets (USA, Japan and Canada) were hosted to dinner by the Secretary of State for Scotland and the First Minister on board the Royal Yacht Britannia (Wednesday 18). In Portmeirion, the other group from European markets, were hosted at dinner by the Deputy First Minister of Wales, and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State of the Wales Office.

  HRH the Duke of Edinburgh received the entire delegation at Windsor Castle on Friday 20. This was followed by lunch with the Prime Minister at Chequers and a reception at No. 10 Downing Street, hosted by Mrs Blair and the Rt Hon Chris Smith MP.

  The VIP tour generated enormous domestic and overseas media coverage, and demonstrated to world travel leaders and writers that actually very little of the events, attractions and experiences which an overseas visitor might seek have been affected by foot and mouth. Crucially, having these opinion formers experience Britain at first hand, has ensured that they are credible, enthusiastic and knowledgeable third-party advocates for British tourism.


  English and UK Ministers: Between 21-23 March, BTA Chief Executive, Jeff Hamblin, accompanied Janet Anderson, Minister for Tourism, on a reassurance and media visit to New York to specifically address and counter USA media coverage of foot and mouth. This resulted in huge media coverage throughout the USA.

  Kate Hoey MP, Minister for Sport, attended a BTA travel trade media breakfast seminar on tourism and foot and mouth in Valencia, Spain on Tuesday 17 April.

  The Rt Hon Chris Smith MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, will be visiting Toronto, Canada on 25 and 26 April on a BTA facilitated promotional visit.

  George Foulkes MP, Minister of State, Scotland Office, will be giving a press conference on tourism and foot and mouth issues at the BTA office in Brussels on Tuesday 24 April.

  Scottish Executive Ministers: Bernard Donoghue, BTA's Head of Government Affairs, accompanied Henry McLeish MSP, First Minister of Scotland, and Alasdair Morrison MSP, Tourism Minister in the Scottish Executive, on a media visit to New York during the week beginning 2 April. The visit coincided with National Tartan Week in the USA and the Ministers undertook a number of media activities arranged by BTA.

  Welsh Assembly Ministers: On Monday 2 April, Mike German AM, Deputy First Minister of Wales, visited BTA offices in Amsterdam and Frankfurt to gauge the perceptions of Britain and Wales from the travel trade in the Netherlands and Germany.


  BTA, the English Tourism Council and the British Hospitality Association have been appointed to the UK Government's Rural Economy Task Force. Bernard Donoghue, BTA's Head of Government and Corporate Affairs, sits on the taskforce, which is chaired by Environment Minister Rt Hon Michael Meacher MP.

  BTA has held several meetings with government ministers and officials, including the Prime Minister, to discuss the inbound tourism perspective and the industry's response and recovery plans.


  The BTA recovery plan will be integrated with the recovery plans being prepared at a local level by the national and regional/area tourist boards of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England on behalf of their respective ministers and industries.

  BTA's immediate priority is to disseminate accurate information via overseas offices and contacts about what it is and isn't possible to do or see in Britain, and to correct the misconceptions that exist about foot and mouth. We are sending out accurate information to our overseas offices for use as each market sees fit. Channels for this will include BTA's website,,, information bulletins and media newsletters overseas and regular communications with staff on information to convey to all their audiences. (This activity is costed at approximately £4.3 million.)

  As well as highlighting the fact that there are still things you can see and do in Britain, BTA will be:

    —  promoting city-based cultural activities that are unaffected at present (BTA has a UK City Culture campaign);

    —  issuing recommended itineraries for overseas media;

    —  publicising events (eg pop concerts, sporting events unaffected);

    —  developing short break ideas; and

    —  working with the travel trade to develop special offers.

  The mid-crisis activity will include market research into overseas perceptions of Britain, PR and tactical advertising campaigns, and a consumer e-mail campaign to 10 million people worldwide who are on BTA's database. (This activity is costed at approximately £8 million).

  The longer-term activity will include image advertising campaigns, on-territory presentations to trade and consumers and travel trade and press familiarisation visits—probably including high profile VIP "ambassadors". BTA campaigns will give prominence to rural Britain, especially those areas most affected by the current crisis. (This activity is costed at approximately £10 million.)


  Foot and mouth disease does not present any threat to humans or to food supplies.

  There is plenty to see and do in Britain that is not affected by the foot and mouth outbreak—much of our countryside is unaffected, as are all our towns and cities.

  There are no restrictions on people leaving Britain.

  There is no reason to cancel or postpone your visit unless you were planning to specifically visit one of the contaminated or restricted areas.

  BTA is ensuring that the latest information on access to the countryside produced by MAFF, DETR, The NI Assembly, The National Assembly for Wales and the Scottish Executive—all of which is somewhat different in detail and emphasis—is promoted through BTA's call centres and information distribution system.

  BTA is also advising visitors of the three rules the Government has issued regarding visiting the countryside, ie:

    —  obey all "keep out" and "road closed" signs;

    —  do not go near livestock;

    —  don't go on farmland or open country unless you are sure the land isn't used by livestock.

  It should be noted that separate advice to the public on access to the countryside has been issued by the Scottish Executive ("The Comeback Code"), the National Assembly for Wales and MAFF and DETR. Whilst all the codes conform to uniform to the official UK Chief Veterinary Officer's advice, each take account of the regional and local incidence of the outbreak.


  The BTA's role is to promote Britain abroad in order to raise the value of overseas visitors' spending to the UK. Latest figures show that in 2000 there were 25.3 million visitors to the UK who spent £12.8 billion. BTA operates in 27 key markets overseas, which collectively generate almost 90 per cent of all visitors to Britain.

  The top five overseas markets for the UK in 1999 were

Visits (000)
Spend (£m)
Irish Republic

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