A government minister was told he must do more to promote the UK to international visitors as the tourism sector recovers from the pandemic.
In a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee meeting on July 5, tourism minister Nigel Huddleston was told the UK is lagging behind other countries in terms of visitor numbers and questioned on why government spending on international marketing is so low.
Huddlestone explained that although the £41m British Tourism Association (BTA) budget is “relatively low” compared to that of “many, many other countries”, it is difficult to make a direct comparison as some UK regions do their own marketing outside of the budget.
He said: “London and Partners just spent £9m [on international marketing] and Manchester spent millions marketing itself as well, so we have other areas of the country also doing international market spend and it’s very difficult to get a hold on exactly what is spent overall.”
The Select Committee then went on to reveal that although “50% of all the UK’s inbound tourism is spent within the M25”, London is recovering slower than Paris in terms of visitor numbers.
When asked why, Huddleston said: “London is the anchor of our global tourism offering. When people come to London they come to the museums, the theatre, and lots of indoor things, so it’s not surprise some of the tourism offerings that are less outdoorsy have been slower to recover.”
Huddleston also blamed the “non-existent” outbound Chinese market for the slow tourism recovery, which he said has “disproportionately” affected the UK.
“The Chinese outbound market is still non-existent which has affected the UK disproportionately as, although it is not in our top 10 in terms of number of visitors, it’s the second biggest market in terms of spend”, he said.
Additionally, Huddleston blamed a lack of airlift capacity for international tourists wanting to come to the UK, as he claimed it is being taken up by Britons who have gone abroad, which he said is not something experienced by all other countries.
He said: “The airports are very busy with outbound travel because one of the first things Brits have wanted to do when the pandemic was over was get on a plane and have a beach holiday.
“Our mix of outbound versus inbound has had an impact in a way not every country had.”
When asked what the government will do to improve tourist numbers, Huddleston said: “I would like us to spend more on international marketing, I think the return on investment is very compelling, but budgets are tight and there’s only so much to go around.”