Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240
TUESDAY 30 JANUARY 2001
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.
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
(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.
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
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 targetand it is
a target we share with other national tourist boardsis
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
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
(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
(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.
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 introductionand
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 tourismsports 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 shownin 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 countryI know it is not historically
correct but I think one believes that the Welsh did invent rugbythere
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.
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 artsvery
important thereand 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 carrywe
still do carry someliterature 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 mattersyou have already touched upon aspects
of thisincluding 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.