Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240 - 259)




  240. I am pleased to see you recognise the problem. The evidence we had this morning, again anecdotal, from people in this area of North Wales said that every single foreign tourist that came in by air for here came in via Heathrow, so there is a lot much work to do.
  (Mr Quarmby) Indeed there is.

Mrs Williams

  241. On that point we met a gentlemen this morning whose visitor numbers I think were 55,000 a year and not a single person had come into this country through Manchester Airport; they had all come through Heathrow, as the Chairman mentioned. I am wondering whether BTA had any plans in the next three to five years to try and get more business through Manchester Airport to Wales?
  (Mr Quarmby) I definitely agree.

  242. If so, what do you plan to do?
  (Mr Quarmby) The key area that we want to increase the flights into Manchester is across the Atlantic and at our New York office one of the things they do is to work very closely with not only BA but the other British airlines that fly the Atlantic, which is Virgin and BM and also the main American Airlines that fly into Britain to encourage, to do joint marketing campaigns, particularly to Manchester Airport and other airports, in order to develop the regional traffic. Obviously we do not have a lot of money, we do not have a lot of muscle, but we can bring pressure to bear, we can engage in joint marketing activities, and we can do PR and media work to emphasise the advantages of coming in directly to Manchester and other regional airports, which we do from our New York office.
  (Mr Donoghue) We would strongly support the development of more direct access, particularly flights into Wales. For example, and this is purely speculation, if a company like EasyJet or Ryan Air were able to fly out of Cardiff into a number of short haul European destinations it would completely transform the amount of traffic coming directly into South Wales.

  243. South Wales?
  (Mr Donoghue) And then hopefully incrementally throughout the rest of Wales as well.

Mr Caton

  244. South Wales does exist!
  (Mr Ishmael) Very briefly on that one, from South Africa we only have direct flights to Britain going to London Heathrow, but it does not mean we cannot work with other carriers like KLM to fly via Schipol from where they have flights to several regional airports in Britain including Birmingham and Manchester and Cardiff, to give us three prongs of entry into Wales.

  245. Even if they come into Heathrow we can encourage them to turn left on the M4 instead of right.
  (Mr Quarmby) Absolutely and many do. 26 per cent of all overseas visitors coming to Wales come through Heathrow airport. It is not surprising that you and your colleagues met people who have visitors who only came in through Heathrow on a small sample.

  246. Moving on from the anecdotal, if you like, to a bit of statistical evidence we have received from Mid-Wales Tourism. They say only two per cent of visitors from abroad who enter the UK come to Wales. Do you accept that as correct? If so, it suggests we have a huge mountain to climb.
  (Mr Quarmby) The correct figure is four per cent, but it is perhaps understandable how those who have advised you on this may have given you two per cent, because there was a major change to the survey methodology in 1999. It sounds crazy but up until that point the Irish Sea routes were not part of the survey that counted and sampled overseas visitors to the United Kingdom. So the Wales' content of the visitors from Ireland was not accurately surveyed and assumptions were made about it that turned out to be wrong. It is not our responsibility. The BTA and the Wales Tourist Board have pressed for some time for the Office of National Statistics to survey the Irish routes which in 1999 they finally did. The result is what had previously been thought of as about 750,000 overseas visitors into Wales is actually just over one million overseas visitors into Wales which is four per cent of the United Kingdom total. So that is the figure we are looking at now. Four per cent of overseas visitors come to Wales.

  247. Is that satisfactory?
  (Mr Quarmby) We would all like to grow it. We would like to grow the percentage. We would like to grow the total amount. The position of Britain as a destination in the last few years is that we have seen virtually no growth at all, almost entirely because of the strength of the pound, particularly against European currencies but also against a number of other world currencies too. In fact, in some markets there has been a significant decline in numbers which has been offset by steady growth from North America where of course the dollar/pound relationship has stayed fairly stable until the last month or two. Our target—and it is a target we share with other national tourist boards—is to grow inbound tourism into Britain. We cannot do anything about the exchange rate as such but what we can do is to allow for that in the way we promote Britain as a destination, in promoting ways of getting value. In our main guide you usually find a couple of pages saying how to get value from your trip to Britain, eat in pubs and not in restaurants, stay in B&Bs rather than hotels, make sure you buy pass tickets which allow you to get into things free once you have bought the ticket and so on and so on. That is the position at the moment. The number of visitors into Britain and spending is flat while world tourism continues to rise, so Britain is slowly losing market share at the moment.


  248. We understand the point about the strength of the pound, but Wales as a percentage of United Kingdom population is six per cent so even if you look at population as being representative of our share, if you like, then we are two per cent down. Given that we have got such huge assets as a country in terms of tourism I think we are a lot further down than that. I do think that the British Tourist Authority, your authority, is not getting people out of England. I can see that you have spotted one problem, the Manchester Airport scenario if you like, the non-London airport scenario, but we heard very strongly today and in fact from other people that there is this tourist route London Warwick, Stratford, the Lake District, Scotland, Chester perhaps as well, and that is it. By the time they have got to Chester and somebody has told them about Wales they are locked into that tour and they have not got a lot of money left because they have been rooked in London. Is there any way of breaking that cycle?
  (Mr Quarmby) We would love to work out the itineraries for the 25 million people who come to the United Kingdom every year but unfortunately we cannot. All we can do is to give them information, to enable journalists and broadcasters to write, to get tour operators to develop product, to give them guidance and on top of everything else we run a Britain Visitors' Centre in central London in Lower Regent Street whose sole purpose is to inform and encourage visitors to London to go beyond London, and there is a desk there with the Wales Tourist Board, a Scottish desk, an Irish desk, and an English desk. That is also trying to tell people about the rest of Britain. It is very difficult to prevent tour operators doing the things which are the icons of visits to Britain which we all have to accept are principal icons that people hear about first. I think the key to developing tourism for Wales is to focus on the four or five key markets that account for two-thirds of visitors to Wales and to develop loyalty for Wales as a destination and to encourage repeat visitors. Most overseas visitors who come to Wales drive their own vehicles and generally people will not drive in the UK on their first time visit. Therefore the rationale has to be to encourage people to come back two, three and four times. The first time they may come to London and possibly go to Stratford in a coach. The second time they may go a bit further afield. The third time they might say, "We feel confident enough to drive a car. Where shall we go?" That is when we want to get hold of them and say, "Why don't you come to Wales?"
  (Mr Donoghue) Can I come back to the point Mr Caton made which is about the ambitions and are we satisfied with Wales' share. The answer very easily is no we are not because we do not believe that four per cent of overseas visitors to Wales reflect either Wales' tourism ambitions, particularly articulated by the new National Assembly, or the breadth of Wales' assets. For example, if you look at the number of overseas visitors the number going to Wales is about the same as those going to Northumbria and Cumbria combined. We believe Wales can do better than that. We are almost desperate to make regional spread a key activity of our work programme, so much so that when the Greater London Authority Act was going through Parliament we ensured that one of the things that it stipulated was that the new Mayor of London had a duty to ensure that London was promoted as a gateway to the rest of the United Kingdom and not solely as a destination in its own right. We did that in consultation with the Scottish and Wales Tourist Board in order to ensure exactly the point you are making, that we use our icon destinations absolutely but use them for the benefit of the rest of the United Kingdom as well.

Mrs Williams

  249. We were talking about giving fair attention to Wales and how you actually promote Wales. Looking through this magazine there are a number of pages about London and there are pages about England. There are two pages about Wales with four illustrations, four pictures. Considering your answer to our first question about the image of Wales, do you think that this is sufficient to promote Wales as the people of Wales would wish it to be promoted?
  (Mr Quarmby) The guide which you have says a lot about Britain generally and about the landscape. I cannot remember exactly what the Belgian one is because each country's BTA main guide is slightly different, but it says things about outdoors, about gardens, about shopping, which apply to the whole country. In the geographical section if you count the pages up you will find that there are four pages in that guide for London, two for England, two for Wales, and two for Scotland. Given that over 50 per cent of all overseas visitors to the United Kingdom go to London and that is the first thing that anybody hears about this country mostly, I do not think that is an unreasonable distribution because we are upping what we are saying about the rest of the country. We have got four pages about London and seven pages about the rest of the country which is saying if you come to London, fine, but there are all these other wonderful places too. I cannot remember what the image is there but we try to have things there that deal with the landscape, maybe illustrate the culture possibly in some way, maybe give a picture of a city. I do not know if Cardiff is featured there.

  250. Cardiff Castle.
  (Mr Quarmby) And a castle, yes. I think you will find there is a little panel which all these guides have on the right-hand side which gives events and you will see things like the Brecon Jazz Festival and the International Eisteddfod is mentioned there and so on. In two pages you cannot say a lot but I do advise you that we do consult very closely with the Wales Tourist Board on the content and the images that we show in these guides. So it is not just our idea.

  251. You say that how you market Wales abroad depends on the knowledge that each country has of Wales and that the WTB is most active in those countries which provide the most inward visitors. What about expanding into new markets?
  (Mr Quarmby) BTA, of course, is in 27 markets, as I said at the beginning. Wales Tourist Board focuses on four or five principally, which is the Republic of Ireland, the United States, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, which account for something like two-thirds of all their visitor numbers. We as the BTA in all those other places around the world are helping to present Wales, to present new things about Wales, to present the culture, heritage, friendliness and so on. We are helping to spread the word in those new markets. My personal view is that it is entirely appropriate for the Wales Tourist Board to focus on its most important markets. As I was saying earlier, I think the repeat visitor is the key to raising the number and the spending of visitors to Wales. That I think, is all about continuing to work with your existing markets and encouraging people who have been to come back again and for them to tell their friends and for them to raise the level of knowledge among the travel agents and tour operators in those key markets that already account for two-thirds of the spending into Wales, two-thirds of the numbers.

  252. So there are no plans to expand the markets?
  (Mr Quarmby) We have no plans to expand beyond the 27 that we are operating in. You would have to ask the Wales Tourist Board whether they are intending to expand beyond the four or five key markets that they have focused on with our help and support. My understanding is that their strategy is to focus on those markets and to use our services, our information, PR and marketing elsewhere in the world to raise the level of interest in Wales as part of what we do for Britain as a whole.
  (Mr Donoghue) If the question was if we had more money what would we do with it, I think the answer would be we would much rather do more promotional work in existing markets in order to realise the benefit and value of those existing markets than do new work in completely new markets, for reasons of economies of scale and infrastructure costs, etcetera, etcetera.

  253. Is it all to do with money? Are you therefore saying that what is being done at the moment is not being done successfully?
  (Mr Donoghue) I think it is being done very successfully. If you look at the return on investment figures, both WTB and BTA have shown a very high return on investment for the work we are currently doing. For example, you mentioned the book that you have in front of you. These are all the books about Wales specifically which I picked up from our information centre in New York. I will leave these with you as well. But I think the work that we would want to do in terms of promoting Wales and of course the rest of Britain would best be done in existing markets which by research has proved you can get the best value for money and the best benefit both for Wales and the Welsh economy.
  (Mr Quarmby) Could I ask Bill to add something to that.
  (Mr Ishmael) To come back to the question Mrs Williams raised about the Wales content of the Britain book. We do have a Wales book to service enquiries. We have about 56,000 trade and consumer enquiries that we answer. We use the Britain book to service a lot of them but over 11,000 enquiries receive a Wales book as well. That is in addition to the two pages in the Britain book that you referred to there.

Mr Caton

  254. The Wales Tourist Board in some of its evidence to us suggests that the absence of an English organisation with a remit to engage in overseas promotion could lead to the BTA becoming a de facto overseas arm of the English Tourism Council. Do you think there is a danger of that?
  (Mr Quarmby) We are very sensitive to the concerns of that and we do not, in fact, compensate for the lack of an overall England marketing responsibility falling on the English Tourism Council. I should explain what does happen in England. There are ten regional tourist boards in England and they are all active in overseas marketing. Mostly they do it collectively through a body called the England Overseas Marketing Partnership, which is the body which the BTA liaises with in the way we liaise with the Wales Tourist Board and the Scottish Tourist Board. That is a panel, a consortium if you like, of the ten regional tourist boards and the English Tourism Council is present there also. Specifically the regions in England group themselves into four which are used to market England abroad. There is England's North Country which is, as it were, England north of the Peak District, if you like, which embraces Yorkshire, Lancashire, upwards to the Scottish border; there is the Heart of England East Anglia; and there is Southern England which runs from Kent to Cornwall. And those regional marking consortia produce brochures which BTA present in our overseas offices and we mail out to people in just the same way as we mail out the brochures produced by the Wales Tourist Board and Scottish Tourist Board and London also. Although it is untidy, I would not wish you to go away with the impression that there is no overseas marketing done of England. There is a great deal but it is not done by English Tourism Council; it is done by these different groupings and consortia of the English regional tourist boards.

  255. Thank you, that is very useful information. Can I move on to something we touched on very early this afternoon and that is about tourism, culture and sport. You have mentioned how beneficial the Rugby World Cup in the Millennium Stadium was in terms of promoting Wales and indeed of tourism. I would like you, if you can, to talk to us a little bit about the sorts of things you did in co-operation with the other bodies and also ask if you have got any plans for doing something similar now that we are going to get the FA and Worthington Cup Finals because that has huge television coverage beyond England and Wales where the teams are based.
  (Mr Quarmby) Just by way of introduction—and I will ask Bill to say a few words in a moment which can explain how it is done from South Africa which is a good paradigm for how we handle our sports tourism—sports tourism is an area of our activities that the BTA formally adopted about 18 months ago as something we should organise ourselves to promote more pro-actively and in a more co-ordinated fashion than we have before. Some of the sports tourism activity is around promoting international events like the Rugby World Cup. We are doing something for the Commonwealth Games. If the Ryder Cup does get to Celtic Manor then we will be very happy to promote it there too. Where you have national events like the FA Cup Final and the Worthington Cup (because all these ex-Wembley fixtures are going to be appearing in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff which I think is an absolutely splendid venue for them) we also feature them in a variety of ways. Of course, the difficulties about getting tickets for those for any overseas visitors mean that we do not necessarily use it to promote tourism to those events. What it is is it provides a peg on which to hang promotion of Britain as a sporting destination and particularly the destination that is shown—in this case Cardiff, South Wales and the Millennium Stadium for the Rugby World Cup. Even if you cannot buy the ticket you can still go and see the stadium or you can go and see another fixture there. There is a wide range of tour operators abroad who specialise in bringing groups of fans over to attend league matches or Premiership matches in football or indeed golf or badminton matches, an enormous range of sports. Even if there is not an event many of these venues have got museums and since most of these international sports were invented in this country—I know it is not historically correct but I think one believes that the Welsh did invent rugby—there are often very famous venues, and people come and see a lot of them, which have also got museums attached to them. Can I ask Bill to say a little bit about how he would envisage being able to use the Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium to say things about Britain and Wales.
  (Mr Ishmael) It is not unusual for a Welshman to find that tickets are hard to come by. We have been used to that for many years and that is also a problem for the South African market. Even at the time of the World Cup that was a problem. At the time of the World Cup and the builds up to it, although slightly before my time in Jo'burg, they had one film crew, two television crews, all the journalists during that period came over. Sure, the focus of their visit was the World Cup but they used it to discover other parts of Wales and other attractions. I brought two journalists over last November when the Springboks were playing in Cardiff. That was a peg to hang it on. The rugby content was four hours that day during which time they also had a chance to meet the Wales Tourist Board members. We travelled to the Gower. It was a weekend programme in winter so it was not a full extended programme for journalists visits but today in Jo'burg, one of those journalists has just produced in one of the biggest English language newspapers in the country, the Star, an article giving a much wider viewpoint of Wales and an introduction to the destination. Similarly, for the football matches which will now be happening in Cardiff, what we have already agreed with the Wales Tourist Board is that they will make one place available in their box at the Millennium Stadium for us to run a competition with one of the television stations which will show the Cup Final throughout South Africa and with that we will generate an interest in the wider sense in Wales. Sure, it will have a football peg about it, but it will give Cardiff certainly, and hopefully quite a bit more of Wales as well, some coverage there that otherwise it would not have. This is an opportunity. This is just for the first Cup Final this year. I believe that the programme will extend for about five years so there is much more opportunity in the years ahead to do that work much more thoroughly.

  256. You are clearly a man of great judgment in deciding to take people to the Gower and you are clearly an enthusiast for Wales so I can see why that is happening in South Africa and very warmly welcome it. Would that sort of thing be happening in other countries where there is a BTA presence?
  (Mr Quarmby) Absolutely, yes. Again it is specific to the market but the Australian and New Zealand BTA teams I am quite sure will be doing exactly the same. There is a bigger Welsh diaspora in Australian anyway compared with South Africa so there is a lot of latent interest and it is something the broadcast media will be able to build on greatly and I hope there will be another seat in the WTB's box at the Millennium Stadium that can be the subject of a prize in Australia too. Yes, it is wonderful that we have an enthusiastic, Welsh-speaking Welsh man who runs our South African office but, yes, we are very aware of the opportunities and the potential for doing exactly this kind of thing in the other English-speaking nations or other nations which have got a particular interest in rugby, or soccer, or whatever it is. That, of course, runs right through South East Asia. The following of the British Premier League and ordinary league football is absolutely enormous throughout South East Asia.

Mrs Williams

  257. You have already referred to the Llangollen International Eisteddfod. Could you tell us what your strategy is for promoting tourism around our major cultural events such as the National Eisteddfod? There are a number of cultural events that take place in Wales. What is your strategy for promoting tourism around these cultural events?
  (Mr Quarmby) Culture in its general form is one of the main reasons for people coming to Britain. As I was saying earlier, culture for us goes all the way from the built heritage, galleries and museums, through the performing arts—very important there—and film and television and craft and traditional lifestyles, etcetera. Events, of course, are a major element in our cultural promotions but because they take place over a short period of time, maybe a few days or a week like the International Eisteddfod in July, then you can only get so many people to come to those, but the events nevertheless are an important peg on which to hang things you want to say about the cultural life of the country. The most important events are featured in our guide, such as the one you have just been looking at, but the most powerful way of communicating events these days is through our web site. We not only feature a huge event listing which you can search through, you can also search for cultural events, you can search for special exhibitions in museums, you can search for film locations. You can search for an amazing range of things on the events database and for most of them there are hot links through to the event's own web sites, or e-mail links, whatever it is. We used to carry—we still do carry some—literature in our overseas offices. For example, we have this brochure which is produced by the Wales Tourist Board which Bernard picked up in the New York office the day before yesterday which features the 82 male voice choirs of Wales including the one here in Llangollen. So print still does have a role in featuring aspects of the cultural life, but we are finding that it is the web site and promotions linked to that, and of course journalistic coverage of events which are perhaps the most powerful way of getting the message about events across the world and encouraging the trade and tour operators to build tour programmes around some of these events.

  258. I would like to move on to the National Assembly, if I may. The National Assembly has recently announced the establishment of a cultural consortium, Cymru'n Creu, will bring together the relevant ASPBs with responsibility for cultural and sporting matters—you have already touched upon aspects of this—including the Wales Tourist Board. Will the existence of a single consortium make it easier to co-ordinate the promotion of tourism with cultural and sporting events?
  (Mr Quarmby) I am quite sure Cymru'n Creu will be of value to us in getting more co-ordinated information about what is going on and of value to the Wales Tourist Board in guiding them on how to develop the international promotion strategy for those. We do work directly with some of these cultural bodies but our prime work will through the Wales Tourist Board and their membership of Cymru'n Creu and we would look to them to ensure that we knew all about the events, that where they had been engaged in discussing promotional and marketing strategy with the main event organisers that they passed that on to us so that our promotion overseas of these events and the cultural programmes was done in a co-ordinated way. So I think it can only be beneficial. We would not be direct partners in that ourselves except on specific events. We would work through the Wales Tourist Board who, of course, work very closely with us on this and many other things.
  (Mr Donoghue) I think this is an example of where devolution really works in that it brings together joined-up government on one issue, bringing lots of government agencies together in order to provide a focus for work, and it is something that we heartily endorse. We have seen it work particularly successfully in Scotland, for example, where a similar type of body, although not similarly constructed, has been established in the Scottish Parliament and that will bring together a number of people both in the private sector and public sector to look at the construction of the cultural tourism strategy. It has already done it in terms of a golf tourism strategy and Rhona Brankin launched a cultural tourism strategy last year and it is already working very well. We would see the resulting work in Wales as being somewhat similar to that and hopefully similarly successful.
  (Mr Quarmby) There is one point I would like to add about what we can bring to the cultural tourism objectives. The BTA is developing an approach to cultural tourism which is perhaps more co-ordinated and more resourced than we have had before and in a month's time one of the most important conferences in this field takes place in the United States, in Washington DC. It is called the Non-Profit Travel Conference and that is a convention which brings together over 400 alumni associations and friends of museums and architecture foundations and art foundations who are group buyers of cultural tourism. The BTA has a major presence this year. It goes over St David's Day so we are hosting with the Wales Tourist Board a St David's Day reception with some of the cultural products of Wales on show there. We believe that working with the intermediary tour operators and in some cases directly with the major alumni associations is a very efficient way of using our resources to bring more cultural tourism to Britain and, of course, that is the way we can influence them not all to go to London. We are delighted that the Wales Tourist Board is a partner with us in our major presence in this non-profit association convention in showing off to these tour operators and alumni bodies a lot of Welsh products.

  259. Could I just get one brief question in. We have been talking throughout this session about the strong feeling within Wales that the BTA does not promote Wales as you should be doing and that is what the structure has been throughout these questions, as I see it. Indeed, witnesses have told us that quite clearly. Could you remind us as a Committee what the structure and the membership of your Board is and if there is not sufficient representation from Wales on your board to have stronger voices from Wales, to get more membership, are there any plans to go down that way?
  (Mr Quarmby) I am pleased to have the opportunity to comment on this. The composition of the BTA Board at the moment is that there are six appointed members, of which I am one as Chairman, and there are ex officio members who are the Chairmen of the Wales Tourist Board, the Scottish Tourist Board, and the English Tourism Council, with the Chairmen of the London Tourist Board and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board sitting as observers. My own view is that I would like to have a much larger number of appointed members. We struggle to represent the tourism industry in that membership, never mind represent the geography of the United Kingdom. I have said before to my Ministers that if there is any opportunity to enlarge the appointed, as distinct from the ex officio membership of the BTA Board, I would greatly welcome it. It so happens that there is a Culture, Media and Sport Bill going through Parliament at the moment which is doing some tidying up of various of the DCMS bodies. It would be open to you, Chairman, and any of your colleagues, to seek to move an amendment that would enable the numbers of the BTA Board to be substantially enlarged and we could then take the opportunity to get a good geographical representation of Britain as well as a good representation from different sections of the tourism industry.
  (Mr Donoghue) If it would help, the Culture and Recreation Bill has just gone through its Committee stage in the Lords.

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