Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the British Tourist Authority


1.1  The Value of Tourism to the Welsh Economy

  Tourism is one of the largest and most important industries in Wales, making a considerable contribution to the Welsh economy: an economy that is more dependent on tourism than virtually any other in Europe. Spending by overnight and day visitors now amounts to just over £2 billion (7 per cent of GDP) and tourism supports around 100,000 jobs.

  1.2  Out of this £2 billion, in 1998 £1.1 billion was spent by staying visitors from the UK and another £176 million was spent by just under 800,000 visitors from overseas. The remainder was spent by people on day trips.

1.3  A Tourism Strategy for Wales

  In July the Wales Tourist Board (WTB) published its strategy for the development of tourism in Wales, with a supportive foreword from Rhrodri Morgan, the Assembly First Secretary. The strategy is designed to meet four objectives, the first of which is to market Wales more effectively as an attractive all year round tourism destination. Flowing from this, WTB has set challenging targets to increase its share of the tourism market. If additional funding is made available to WTB then, by 2010, it aims to have increased its number of overseas visitors to 1.26 million, spending £396 million. Without additional funding, WTB will aim for the lower targets of increasing overseas visitors to 1.15 million with a spend of £366 million. Whichever targets apply, BTA will be working with WTB to help it achieve them.

  1.4  As WTB says in its strategy: "The relationship between WTB and BTA will need to assume increasing importance if Wales is to achieve its stated growth targets for overseas tourism. A co-ordinated programme of marketing activities will need to be developed to increase awareness of Wales and to stimulate a higher proportion of tourists to visit Wales during their stay in the UK".

  In the USA this year:

    —  we have spoken to 10,723 people who rang our call centre for information about Wales;

    —  sent information about Wales to 14,665 people who responded to our advertising campaigns; and

    —  recorded 4,345 visits to the Wales pages of our visitbritain gateway web site in the US.


  2.1  The British Tourist Authority (BTA), together with the English, Scottish and Wales Tourist Boards (the national boards), was 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 Great Britain.

  2.2  Originally, the national boards were not given powers to market their countries overseas but this was changed for Wales in 1992. (The Scottish Tourist Board had already been granted overseas marketing powers in 1984. The English Tourist Board, now trading as the English Tourism Council, has never been granted them.)

  2.3  By virtue of the Government of Wales Act 1998, the functions and powers of the Secretary of State for Wales under the Development of Tourism Act were transferred to the Assembly. The Assembly also has the power under the "Wales Act" to call BTA to give evidence before it and to produce documents.


  3.1  WTB, in common with the other national boards, makes an input in to all major decisions taken by BTA. The Chairman of WTB, Philip Evans, is an ex-officio member of the BTA Board; he represents Welsh interests and contributes and advises on strategic and policy matters whenever key decisions are taken.

  3.2  The BTA Board makes a point of holding some of its meetings outside London at venues around Britain and it visits Wales about once a year. On these occasions, the Board meets colleagues on the relevant national board and representatives of the tourism industry who are based in the country or region concerned.

  3.3  The Chief Executives also meet regularly to discuss matters of mutual concern and interest to specialist staff.

  In London:

    —  Our Britain Visitor Centre brings national tourist boards and commercial partners together under one roof to provide pan Britain information coupled with reservation services. Last year, WTB staff in the Centre fielded 18,553 enquiries from visitors who came in person to get information and spoke to another 10,869 who telephoned.

  3.4  Since January 1998, the relationship between BTA and WTB—and the other national boards—has been formalised in an Overseas Marketing Agreement which sets out our respective roles, responsibilities and working relationship in the overseas promotion of Britain and its constituent countries, in this case Wales. The following principles underpin the Agreement and provide a good overall description of the way in which BTA and WTB operate in the joint job of promoting Wales overseas:

    —  BTA and WTB are equal, strategic partners;

    —  BTA recognises that the marketing of Wales as a destination delivers benefits to Britain as a whole and WTB recognises that the "umbrella" marketing of Britain can deliver benefits to Wales;

    —  WTB is the guardian of the "Wales brand" whilst BTA is the guardian of the overall "Britain brand"; and

    —  BTA will not reduce its activity in those markets designated by WTB as its primary markets. This means that WTB's activities in these markets are truly additional to those of BTA. BTA does not reduce its activity because WTB is active. In WTB's secondary and tertiary markets, they support our promotional activities on Wales' behalf.

  3.5  The implementation of the Overseas Marketing Agreement is overseen by a Steering Group at which the parties are represented at director level and, of fundamental importance to ensuring delivery of the principles enshrined in the Agreement, is the fact that WTB is involved in BTA's business planning process from the earliest stage.

  3.6  BTA is currently developing a new strategic framework. The aim of this process is to ensure that we meet the needs of our stakeholders, which include strategic partners such as WTB, and to provide a clear structure around which we will build the next round of business planning and budgeting.

  3.7  This has provided a timely opportunity for WTB to re-consider what its requirements of BTA are. For instance, they are looking to us to help further in developing a distinctive Wales brand and for WTB to have a more participative role in "Britain" advertising campaigns. This dialogue is on-going and these and other commitments that WTB is seeking will be considered and discussed fully as part of the business planning process for the forthcoming year. We are listening and will continue to do so.

  In Ireland:

    —  among many other activities, we run a Wales campaign each year working jointly with WTB, Stena and Irish Ferries. This year, we received a record 9,000 responses;

    —  last year, our direct mail campaign with Stena and WTB resulted in 364 visits to Wales that would not otherwise have been made; and

    —  we sent around 10 journalists to Wales each year and one trade group; ie travel agents and tour operators.

  3.8  In common with the Scottish Tourist Board, WTB believes that it is preferable to spend money on marketing Wales than on maintaining separate offices overseas, given that it can "bolt-on" to the BTA network. Hence, in the USA—which is Wales' most important overseas market and the only one in which WTB maintains a presence on territory—it operates out of BTA's New York office.

  3.9  WTB has had a marketing manager and assistant in post in our New York office for the last eight years and, until 1995, the posts were jointly funded by BTA, WTB and the Development Board for Rural Wales (now the WDA). Since then, they have been funded wholly by WTB, which also reimburses BTA with overhead and other costs associated with the posts. The WTB marketing manager has a strong working relationship with BTA colleagues and supports many BTA led marketing initiatives. This October, Cardiff will host the American Society of Travel Writer's Convention. BTA supported Wales' bid for the Convention—which is regarded as a prestigious event—and it is the first time that the society has chosen a UK destination.


  4.1  How we market Wales overseas depends entirely on the knowledge that each country has of Wales. Not everyone overseas appreciates that Great Britain is made up of three countries and, in most overseas markets, we have to develop a potential visitor's awareness of Britain as a destination before we can move on to develop awareness of Wales as a destination within Britain. We have therefore worked with the national boards to develop an overall umbrella brand for Britain that can stand on its own or be combined with one or more of the four main brands: London, England, Wales and Scotland.

  4.2  Wales' most important—or priority—markets are the USA, from which it receives 21 per cent of its overseas visitors, Germany (11 per cent), Republic of Ireland (9 per cent), Netherlands (9 per cent) and France (7 per cent) and these are the markets in which WTB is most pro-active in marketing Wales. It also carries out pro-active work on a smaller scale in its three secondary markets of Australasia, Belgium and Japan. Since, 1992, Scandinavia, Italy, Spain, South Africa and Canada have, at various times, been classified as secondary markets by WTB, but are currently classified as tertiary.

  4.3  In tertiary markets, WTB does not undertake any proactive work on territory and relies on BTA to promote Wales, although WTB does respond positively to BTA offers of press visits and travel familiarisation visits within Wales.

  In Australia:

    —  we expect to have distributed 20,000 copies of the Wales Guide by the end of the year;

    —  by the end of August our call centre had mailed about 800 information packs on Wales;

    —  we have dealt with 1,000 enquiries about Wales resulting from our TV advertising campaign; and

    —  last year we generated coverage of Wales in Australian print media estimated to be worth £250,000, and obtained three prime time features on travel shows.

  4.4  To flesh this out, and to give a flavour of how we actually set about marketing Wales "on the ground" we are attaching an appendix outlining our current programme of activity in Germany. The activities mentioned are mirrored in our marketing programmes around the world.

  4.5  BTA has also provided support to WTB on campaigns that it initiates and leads on. Notably, the promotion last year of the Rugby World Cup. In Argentina, where rugby is very popular, we estimate that joint BTA/WTB activity resulted in £1.25 million of business for Wales—an ROI of £62:£1. Sports tourism is, in fact, an area in which BTA and WTB are collaborating closely. BTA has recently launched a sports tourism strategy. WTB is a member of our Sports Tourism Forum, and Tony Lewis, the ex-Chairman of WTB, has agreed to assist BTA in encouraging sports stars to act as sports tourism "ambassadors" when they are overseas. The fact that the Welsh Assembly asked WTB, in its recent Strategic Guidance Letter, to develop this area, "possibly in conjunction with BTA", is likely to strengthen our collaboration on sports tourism still further.

  4.6  Over recent years, BTA has made increasing use of new media technology. Our award winning website enables potential visitors around the world to access information about Britain's cities, resorts, all types of accommodation and attractions as well as to plan their journeys once here. Attached to the sites are 27 gateway sites that enable visitors to access the information they need in their own language. Ultimately we plan to increase the number of these gateways to around 40.

  4.7  As part of our continuing commitment to new technologies, this year BTA is sponsoring the IT and Innovation category in the WTB's re-vamped awards scheme for the industry in Wales.

  4.8  A key part of TBA's role is to advise the tourism industry on how best to market their products overseas. To this end, we publish Market Guides, organise "road shows" on territory and provide introductions to key contacts overseas such as tour operators. One of the difficulties we have encountered in fulfilling this role is of making small businesses aware that we have a lot to offer them and that BTA is not just interested in working with large companies. As part of our continuing drive to make our expertise more accessible, we have set up an internet site for tourism industry professionals (TIPS) at which contains a mine of market information and data and has links to relevant third party sites. In conjunction with regional and national tourism boards we have also begun to hold joint "surgeries" when we send a marketing team out to meet and advise local SMEs.

  In the Netherlands last year:

    —  we answered 5,800 general enquiries about Wales;

    —  sent out 8,086 guides and brochures about Wales; and

    —  responded to another 11,000 enquiries that resulted from our advertising campaign.

And that's only part of the story.


  5.1  In carrying out our role of promoting Britain overseas we work with a large number of public bodies, such as the UK Sports Council, the Arts Councils, Historic Royal Palaces, Heritage and Museums agencies and so on whose activities impinge on tourism. As far as possible, we generally deal with Britain wide agencies, leaving the national boards to deal with those bodies whose remit is limited to a single country. We can provide more detail of these relationships if required.

  5.2  Our closest working relationship is with the British Council. As well as sharing offices with them in three countries, the British Council provides an information service to prospective visitors on BTA's behalf in 12 further countries from which the level of visitors is not high enough to justify BTA maintaining a separate presence. We provide the print—which obviously covers Wales as well as Britain's other constituent countries—and train the British Council staff. The overall relationship is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding.

  5.3  We also have close relationships with the DTI and, especially on territory, with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and are fast developing links with British Trade International. In countries where we have no other presence, we supply the Embassy or High Commission staff with literature and information so that they can deal with tourism enquiries and we make regular presentations to ECO information staff when they are in London.

  5.4  Another vital relationship is with the UK Immigration Service Ports Directorate with which we have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding which provides a framework for our work together to expedite the passage of bona fide visitors to Great Britain. UKIS, BTA, DCMS and the FCO meet regularly to discuss points of mutual interest and, latterly, the British Council has joined our group.

  5.5  The final set of relationships we should like to mention here are EU orientated. BTA's office in Brussels works closely with WTB to promote Wales' tourism interests to the EU institutions. Much of this work has been to do with the European structural funds and has included discussions with the Welsh desk officer for ERDF in DG Regional Policy; inviting WTB to participate in a Brussels seminar on tourism and the structural funds in September last year; and working with WTB and the other national boards on BTA's recent structural fund guidance Making the most of Tourism's Contribution to Regional Economic Development which resulted from the seminar. WTB has since distributed this guidance document to many of its partners in the new 2000 to 2006 ERDF programme for Wales.

  In Japan last year:

    —  2,800 people visited our Tokyo office to ask for information about Wales;

    —  700 people telephoned for information;

    —  900 people wrote for information; and

    —  around 9 per cent of all enquiries relate to Wales.

  5.6  BTA also has a good working relationship with the Wales European Centre (WEC) in Brussels and we joined together—successfully—to make representations to the European Commission on the eligibility of tourism promotion programmes for ERDF support in Wales (and elsewhere in the UK). In 1999, at WEC's request, we accompanied and advised a top level WTB delegation that went to Brussels to discuss tourism issues with representatives of various directorates-general of the European Commission.


  6.1  In our view, relationships are working well and we do not see any need for legislative change arising out of devolution. However, we do support WTB's wish to see the introduction of a statutory scheme of registration—for which there are already powers in the Development of Tourism Act—and inspection of tourism accommodation. We believe, as they do, that it would provide the best mechanism for driving up quality.


  7.1  We hope that we have managed to convey an understanding of how BTA and WTB work together to promote Wales abroad and why there is a place for both of us in so doing.

  7.2  However, we are working through particularly challenging times at the moment and BTA is more that conscious, not only that it must continue to deliver what its strategic partners want, but also that we must prove that it is doing so.

  7.3  As noted above at para 1.3, WTB has set challenging targets for increasing its number of overseas' visitors over the next 10 years. WTB believe that, if they are to meet these targets, a continuing close working relationship with BTA, in which the roles and responsibilities of both parties are understood and accepted, will be essential.

  In Sweden:

    —  a direct mail campaign with WTB, Euro Wales and Wales Botanic Gardens resulted in visitors spending £300,000 in Wales that would not otherwise have been spent.

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