Examination of Witnesses (Questions 219
TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2001
219. Good morning. Thank you for coming this
morning. We have quite a lot of questions for you because we see
the BTA as having a lot to do with what we are looking at on this
issue. Perhaps you could begin by introducing your team and saying
a few words about what the BTA does.
(Mr Quarmby) Thank you, Mr Chairman.
Bori Da. Thank you for inviting us to appear before you
today. I am David Quarmby, the Chairman of the British Tourist
Authority. Mr Chairman, I bring abject apologies for the absence
of my Chief Executive, Jeff Hamblin, who I am afraid is lying
in bed at home with a very severe back problem. He is very sorry
not to be here today. May I introduce on my right Mr Bill Ishmael
who manages the BTA office in South AfricaI think you all
met him last nightand Bernard Donoghue, who is our Government
and Corporate Affairs Manager, on my left. BTA has 27 offices
overseas through which we promote the three countries of BritainWales,
England and Scotland. We provide consumer information, services
by telephone, e-mail, print, we service over 6 million enquiries
every year and something like 9 million visitors visit our web
site every year. We run advertising campaigns for Britain and
different parts of Britain. We run extensive PR and editorial
promotions. We have upward of 2,000 journalists visiting Britain
arranged by us to write about Britain back in their home broadcast
media or newspapers and magazine. We do trade promotions, trade
missions and we bring back market intelligence for our strategic
partners, the national tourist boards of Wales, Scotland and the
consortium that markets England, and of course for UK trade. BTA
is proud to promote Wales overseas. We have a strong co-operative
relationship with the Wales Tourist Board and we are currently
working with them to explore how BTA can best support them in
meeting the challenging targets that have been set for them in
their new tourism strategy Achieving Our Potential. Mr Chairman,
you have a number of questions which we will be pleased to take.
Perhaps before I do that I could ask my colleague Bill Ishmael
to say a few words.
(Mr Ishmael) I just want to add a personal word of
thanks to you as a Committee for organising this meeting in Wales
in Llangollen here. As I explained, I have been working abroad
for over 20 years now in promoting tourism for Britain in general
but in particular for Wales. I and my family have always felt
that Wales is our home and it is excellent to have an opportunity
to come home once again, so I would like to thank you wholeheartedly.
220. Can I thank the Chairman for standing in
this morning at such short notice
(Mr Quarmby) It is my great pleasure.
Chairman: And just to apologise that we are
now a bit thin on the ground, but the reason for that is a major
piece of legislation going through the House and practically all
our Committee was put on the Standing Committee of that Bill.
We decided to go ahead with a happy few. Can I bring in Mrs Williams.
221. Most of our witnesses up until now really
have pointed out the fact that Wales does not enjoy as high a
profile as we would wish overseas and that the perception of Wales,
the image of Wales is often distorted, stereotyped and not the
accurate image that the people of Wales would want others to have.
I would use the word "stereotyped". This has gone on
for many years and maybe by today that image is not quite up-to-date,
that is it is out-of-date. Do you agree with that opinion that
has been given by some of our witnesses up until now and what
role do you have in raising Wales' profile abroad?
(Mr Quarmby) Chairman, I think I would agree that
Wales does not enjoy a very high profile abroad but it is nevertheless
a very distinct profile and it is different from the rest of Britain.
222. Why does it not enjoy that high profile?
(Mr Quarmby) Because it is part of a country, a nation
which has many different aspects that people know about and it
is a fact, I think, that people tend to know more about London
and perhaps parts of England and Scotland and they will know some
things about Wales but taken overall Wales, I would agree, does
not enjoy the profile that you would like and we would like too.
But, if I may say, your description of it being traditional and
antiquated, I genuinely do not think that is how Wales is seen
abroad. That is certainly not how we project it. Our research
does not show that that is how Wales is seen. Wales is seen as
being very green, a natural country with wonderful and quite distinct
landscape. It is seen to have a very distinctive culture, music,
singing, poetry, passion I could say generally in its culture.
It is known for its sport, particularly as a result of the Rugby
World Cup. It has achieved a huge profile particularly in the
English speaking world around the world. Our research also shows
that Wales is particularly known for friendliness and the welcome
that its people give. I do not recognise and accept that it has
that rather out-of-date image abroad. I wonder if Bill could add
something to that because he knows how South Africans see Wales
(Mr Ishmael) In South Africa as a result of the World
Cup especially, but it goes further back than that to a tradition
of our relationship with Wales for many years, the people of South
Africa think of Britain as England and Scotland and Wales, and
Wales is a familiar name for the people of South Africa because
of the rugby. I agree with what my Chairman has said as well about
the antiquated image of Wales. It is not perceived as that in
South Africa. They expect tradition, yes, but I think the whole
nation in South AfricaI do not think there was one television
set that was off when they were playing against Wales. At that
time they saw the singing tradition which was apparent in the
rugby game but they saw it all taking place in the newest best
stadium possibly in the world, so they see the traditions being
kept but in a different way.
223. Do you form your opinion on the rugby image
and what rugby portrays abroad? If I can just add on to that question
maybe to ask the Chairman if you could remind us what the figures
are of people from South Africa who visit Wales compared possibly
with the figures of those from America?
(Mr Quarmby) You know the South African figures, Bill.
(Mr Ishmael) I think we had 4,000 visitors last year.
80 per cent of the visitors from South Africa to Britain came
to Wales so that was nearly double the number over the whole of
the world who actually come to Wales. But it was rugby I think
which introduced the idea of Wales. I am not saying it is just
rugby because it only took place over one month, and that one
month could not have caused the doubling of figures of visitors
from South Africa to Wales, but I think the fact that the eye
of the world was on Wales, we had one television company that
came over to film in Wales and to write about Wales and they have
created an increased awareness about Wales, not only in rugby
but in Wales in general.
224. Can I just follow on from that. Does the
BTA possibly put too much emphasis on rugby and depend too much
on that particular image because it is not just for singing and
rugby that we want the people to see Wales.
(Mr Quarmby) Chairman, I do not want to imply at all
that rugby is the only thing that we promote about Wales. At the
beginning I did say that what Wales means in the minds of people
who have participated in our research is the natural landscape,
the beauty of the countryside, the distinctive culture of Walesand
that is not just male voice choirs, although that is part of it
clearlythe friendliness of its people, and sport.
225. Can you tell us what your perception as
Chairman of BTA is of this Welsh culture?
(Mr Quarmby) What my perception of the culture is?
I think it is the tradition of singing and music-making, which
of course is very much represented by what goes on at the Eisteddfod
here too in July.
226. Which Eisteddfod?
(Mr Quarmby) The International Eisteddfod, and poetry
as well and the use of the Welsh language to support this. But
that is not only what the culture is about. Culture is about other
things too. It is about the built heritage, it is about the performing
arts generally, it is about dance, it is about participative music,
it is about literature. We promote Britain and Wales as a cultural
destination as well as a destination for sport and a destination
for shopping as well as for landscape and coast, but we project
different images to different segments of the market. So it is
right to talk about Wales as a sports destination to many people
in South Africa, but we would not focus on Wales as a sporting
destination for most Americans. We present different images of
Wales to East Coast Americans and young Americans and so on because
they look for different things.
227. I would like to pursue this one. Do you
consider that the images which it prompts of Wales are sufficiently
powerful and, if not, what would the BTA consider as the correct
image for development?
(Mr Quarmby) You have to build on what is there; you
cannot build on what is not there. I believe that these four or
five building blocks of what makes Wales distinctthe landscape,
the coastline, the culture, the heritage, the sport, the friendliness
of its peopleand the contemporary interpretation of those
are the building blocks for the promotion of Wales abroad and
that is how BTA does it. That is absolutely in line with the brand
values, if I can use that phrase, that the Wales Tourist Board
has developed and which we take from them and we work with them
in promoting those in all the different markets abroad.
228. Yesterday, for instance, we heard that
somebody set about getting a video produced about Wales to promote
Wales and it was discovered by somebody in tourism that those
people had never visited Wales and they were sitting in London
about to set up a video promotion not having visited our country
at all. Could I ask you as Chairman, and I will not be personal
and ask you how often have you visited Wales
(Mr Quarmby) I am delighted you should ask me.
229. But who do you consult in Wales about these
images that we have been talking about?
(Mr Quarmby) I must emphasise how closely we work
with the Wales Tourist Board. For example, yesterday in our office
in London we were meeting with Roger Pride, the Marketing Director
for the Wales Tourist Board, the Marketing Director of the Scottish
230. Was that to brief you before you came here?
(Mr Quarmby) It was not anything to do with us being
here. It was one of the regular meetings where BTA plans its marketing
strategy and we take input from Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland
and from the English marketing consortium (we can speak about
that in a moment) to guide us in the preparation of our marketing
strategy. This is part of the regular business that we do with
the Wales Tourist Board and the other national tourist boards.
The answer to your question: I am proud of the fact that my wife
and my family and I have over 25 years spent 95 per cent of our
holidays in this country. I spent time in Pembrokeshire in the
early 1960s. A friend of mine lived there. We brought our family
to West Wales when they were young. My wife and I were in Beaumaris
only last summer. I go to Cardiff frequently.
231. I do not wish to have a personal go at
you but I am just interested.
(Mr Quarmby) I am proud to tell you that I do know
Wales and I have been here many times. I have been to Llangollen
three times on a canal boat on the Llangollen Canal.
232. You have not quite told me what I asked
you about. Are the images sufficiently powerful? If you do not
think so what do the BTA consider as images for development? You
consult the Wales Tourist Board but do you not think there should
be more consultees?
(Mr Quarmby) We work through the Wales Tourist Board
and they bring other people for us to talk to like the regional
tourism companies. We also from time to time, as BTA, will reach
out with the Wales Tourist Board to talk with the trade. For example,
in two weeks' time I am bringing the BTA Board for the second
board meeting in two years to Wales. We are meeting in Newport
and we are holding an open trade meeting in the afternoon alongside
Philip Evans. I think the mailing list is 2,000 or 3,000 peoplethey
will not all come of coursebut we have invited any members
of the Wales tourism trade who are members of the RTCs to come
and meet the BTA for an afternoon and for us to hear what we can
do for them and what they would like us to do to promote Wales
better for overseas visitors. So we do engage not only with the
Wales Tourist Board but through the Tourist Board with the trade
here and with the RTCs.
233. Is that a new venture?
(Mr Quarmby) This is the first open trade meeting
we have had in Wales.
234. That is what I mean.
(Mr Quarmby) As I say, it is the second board meeting
that we have had here and we meet the whole of the Wales Tourist
Board for dinner, we have discussions with the executive team,
we take the opportunity to meet key industry figures. This is
the first time we will have had an open Board meeting and this
is in South Wales. I have said when we come to Wales again we
will hold an open board meeting in North Wales and later in West
235. Do you agree that if you do not do that
you will be accused of what we have heard so often that Wales
is Cardiff-based, M4 corridor-based?
(Mr Quarmby) I believe it is extremely important that
we in BTA should not only know the country that we are promotingand
I like to think that I dobut that we should be seen to
be listening to what the trade and our partners want to tell us
about overseas promotion. We have to go not just to the capital
city. For example, in Scotland we have been both to Edinburgh
and to Inverness and it is very important that we listen to what
the Highlands have to say. In the same way we go to different
parts of England. I am looking forward to going to North Wales
which I actually know quite well because I was born and brought
up in the north of England and we tended to have a lot of holidays
on the North Wales coast.
236. How do you set about overcoming the central
obstacle, identified by the Wales Tourist Board, that for many
consumers abroad "Britain" equals "England"?
(Mr Quarmby) There are some parts of the world where
Britain does equal England, I agree with you. It is very important
for us that we counter that, firstly, because part of the BTA's
objective set for us by my Secretary of State is to promote, if
you will forgive this slightly awkward phrase, regional spread.
It is part of our objective to promote overseas visitors to travel
to the rest of Britain beyond London and that means not only England
but it means Scotland and Wales too. We do this in a variety of
ways. For example, in Germany last year and the year before we
had an advertising campaign that we did with the Wales and Scottish
Tourist Boards called Britain: A Nation of Three Countries and
we used that campaign to present very distinct and different characteristics
of England, Wales and Scotland. For example, in all our literature,
on our web site, in all our print production we emphasise very
clearly that Britain is more than England. For example, in our
Belgian main guideand we have a copy here if, Chairman,
you would like us to pass it roundin the geographical section
there are four pages on London, two pages on England, two pages
on Wales and two pages on Scotland. I think that begins to enable
us to tell the potential visitor that there is an awful lot more
to Britain than just London or to Britain than even just London
and England. In our gardens mapthis is our new campaign
for Britain's gardensout of 100 gardens here we have got
ten in Wales. You will all know them very well including quite
a cluster in North Wales and Chirk Castle, etcetera. So in everything
we do we make the point that we are talking about Britain and
not England. Bernard, is there anything you want to add on that?
(Mr Donoghue) Only that we believe in the promotion
of Britain that we have major distinct "products", if
you can term a nation a product. We have a distinct product in
terms of Wales and the product of Wales in marketing terms provides
us with a huge diversity of things we can sellessentially
all the things David has already mentionedbut it does depend
on the market to which we are selling. For example, Wales will
have a distinct appeal in Ireland which it may not have in South
Africa or it may have an understanding and awareness and profile
in Japan which may be different to that of the United States.
We try and market Wales to the market that we are selling it to,
but also we try to project the diversity of the country as well.
237. Can I ask you a couple of supplementaries
to that really coming out of the meetings that we have held over
the last 24 hours or so. Indeed, this morning before we came here
we met with some of the people involved in the tourism industry
here in Llangollen. One person there, a hotelier, is based on
the A5 and he gets passing trade. People turn up and come into
the hotel, spend a couple of days and then say, "We went
to London, to Warwick, to Chester, to Stratford-on-Avon and then
we heard Wales was quite attractive so we thought we would pop
over the border", and they are gobsmacked at how wonderful
Wales is. So clearly something is going wrong if Wales is this
closely kept secret which makes me wonder if we do not need better
co-ordination between those people selling or pointing out the
attractions, particularly in the West of England and here in Wales,
and in the devolved world that we now live in, including in tourism
promotion, is there a role for the BTA in helping that sort of
(Mr Quarmby) Very definitely there is. We work with
tour operators abroad to help them develop tour products which
go beyond London and go beyond the staple destinations that so
many go to beyond London, like Bath and Stratford and Stonehenge
and Chichester and so on. We do this in a variety of ways. We
bring travel agents over on familiarisation trips and we take
them all over the country. We bring tour operators over. At the
British Travel Trade Fair, which is the main Britain trade fair
which takes place in March in the National Exhibition Centre in
Birmingham, BTA brings hundreds of buyers from all over the world
and BTTF features very strongly Wales and Scotland and England.
Of course, that is done by the Wales Tourist Board and that is
an opportunity (among others) to make sure that tour operators
know about Welsh products, know what it is that is different about
Wales. We run "fam" trips as they are calledfamiliarisation
tripsbefore and after these trade fairs. Perhaps the most
important thing that happened recently to put Wales on the map
in the way that you describe was the Society of American Travel
Writers' Conference that took place in Cardiff last October. 420
journalists and broadcasters from North America, the United States
and Canada will generate a legacy of articles and programmes and
pieces about Wales of the like that none of us has ever seen before.
That was a Wales Tourist Board-led but very closely BTA-supported
effort to get the SATW to take their conference out of North America
for the first time for a very long time. There is no simple answer.
It is doing a lot of those kind of things to make sure that the
people who reach the publicand after all we have very little
resource with which to advertisewe use PR, we work through
the trade, we use tour operators and we have our web site, and
we use every means that we can to remind people that Britain is
this nation of three countries.
238. I am grateful for that. I am interested
in what you are describing where you work with tour operators.
(Mr Quarmby) Yes.
239. Again, coming out of our discussions over
the last day and a half or so, something that came up is people
wondering whether we could get tour operators to restructure the
holiday package so that instead of going first to London and then
going to the regions of England or Wales, we could get them to
go to the regions first, particularly at the moment when it seems
so expensive to come to Britain. If you go to London first you
have got the impact of even greater expense whereas if you could
get them out to the regions that would benefit places like Wales
but it would also give them a better impression of Britain.
(Mr Quarmby) That is a very important point. The port
of entry into Britain is a very important determinant of where
people go. That sounds obvious but we need to say it and BTA has
been very active in helping Manchester Airport to promote itself
as an international destination. One of the marketing consortia
that BTA has helped put together covers the north of England and
Manchester Airport is a key player in that. We know, and anybody
in the trade knows that a lot of the international visitors into
North Wales and Mid-Wales via Manchester Airport. I would say
Manchester Airport has done some truly excellent work to develop
inbound tourism. They have developed onward transportation like
the rail network. You can now get to a very wide range of destinations
in North Wales and the North of England directly from Manchester
Airport station. There are coach services that run out of there
too. I think they have done more than any other airport in the
United Kingdom to make it user-friendly for international visitors
coming into Manchester and going onwards by a variety of means
of transportation. We are very supportive of what Manchester are
doing. It is that that has helped to build the volume of international
flights that now come into and out of Manchester. I think Manchester
has the second highest number of international flights after the
London area group of airports.
(Mr Donoghue) I returned yesterday from a trip to
our offices in Chicago and New York and I met some of the travel
writers who had been over here in Cardiff. It is anecdotal evidence
but it is true. A couple of things they told me entirely bear
out your question. One is that they would much prefer to come
to destinations other than London for two reasons. One is they
hate Heathrow. It is an untidy, cluttered, in their view, stressful
airport and they would much rather come somewhere else, for example
Manchester. The second is that the impression they get of British
guest house accommodation from London is appalling. Honestly,
if we can get them out of London as quickly as possible so they
do not experience the kind of accommodation particularly at the
lower and middle end of the markets, then all the better for us.
We were struck by the fact when we have undertaken research in
the last couple of years that 30 per cent of all overseas visitors
to Wales only go to Wales. That is striking for usit takes
account, of course, of the traffic coming through from Irelandbecause
what it tends to suggest is that the number of people who come
to Wales usually on the second or third visit only want to come
to Wales because of their experience of Wales the first time round.
If that can be repeated and promoted then we have got a win/win