Traveltalk's JON UNDERWOOD catches up with VisitBritain CEO Sally Balcombe in England
Q: The Australian market continues to be important to you?
A: Massively important to us, particularly because Aussies explore the whole of Britain. You really get out there and tend to come for a good amount of time as it’s such a long way. That also means you spend quite a lot of money – thank you, we love that – but Aussie tourists also get into areas that we don’t see from some other markets.
I find Australians in all parts of Britain and up for anything. You’ll find Aussies walking in the Lake District but also doing some of the off the wall activities as well. It’s one of the reasons that we made Australia a ‘great’ market a year ago – there are only seven ‘great’ markets for us in the world. That means we give it more time, spend and attention. Because of the size and value of the Aussie market, it’s an absolute priority for us.
Q: How are you targeting the younger generation?
A: I think we need to up our game with the younger generation because we understand it is a competitive landscape. People are always going to come here because of family ties but the younger market has got a lot of choice when it comes to where they go on holiday. So we need to make our offer very powerful. We are helped at the moment because sterling has dropped in value a bit so we’ve become more affordable.
In our marketing and promotional work in Australia we’re trying to talk to that younger audience about what there is to do in the UK – and if you want culture and cool things to do, this is the place. We’re just about to launch a huge promotion with STA around music festivals. We’ve got the heritage, the culture and the castles, but this is still a pretty dynamic place with so much going on.
Q: I believe rail travel will also be a focus going forward?
A: We want people to explore Britain so how do we make that easier? We’ve had a Brit rail pass for years but it needs refreshing and we are working on that right now so watch this space. The rail network here is easy to get around so you will see product like new itineraries and passes coming into the Australian market.
Q: What else do you have coming up in 2017?
A: We’ve got lots of literary, film and TV celebrations, such as the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland. The government has also tasked us with helping the industry create new world-class products and some of those will be coming to market in the next year or two.
Everything from the rail product I was talking about to new music product to the Great West Way, where we’ll join up a whole itinerary which you can walk, travel, cycle and experience in a different way, including lots of new virtual reality experiences. So there are exciting times ahead.