The UK nations and regions are poorer at attracting inbound overseas visitors than London is and the gap is getting wider, a matter of concern reflected in new Government tourism strategies. What can tourism businesses and attractions do to bridge this gap?

Visit Britain, the national Visits and DCMS have already responded to the incoming Government’s manifesto commitment that ‘we will set challenging targets for Visit Britain and Visit England to ensure more visitors travel outside of London’.  The Prime Minister launched his plans for tourism on 17 July and you can see this plan here

The English regions has some strong tourism destinations and attractions and also many intrinsic strengths as destinations, such as our heritage, landscapes, a much-improved food and hospitality offer, transport links and proximity to London, but there is great variability, with the north west and south east performing well and the midlands performing less well. 

Several parts of England perform well in terms of domestic visitor satisfaction and economic performance and the Visit England indices of visitor satisfaction tell a really clear story.  I find this data, based on a very detailed summation of over 50 attributes of a destination, very useful and you can see the data here:

What is interesting is that areas that perform well overall for domestic visitor satisfaction generally attract more overseas visitors, but the link is not always strong.  Physical proximity to London means that Kent and the Cotswolds (one region which scores relatively low in domestic satisfaction and one that score nearer the top) both perform well with international tourism.  The Midlands regions generally perform worse than some of the northern regions.

What is clear, is that simply having a great destination is not enough to perform well in international tourism markets.  A case in point is the East Midlands and its highest performing tourism areas, especially the counties of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

The East Midlands region as a whole is very poor at attracting inbound overseas visitors and very poor at generating spend per visitor compared with other comparable regions such as Yorkshire and the North West.  Moreover, those parts of the EM region that perform well with domestic tourism are amongst the poorest performing areas of the region and some of the poorest performing counties in England. 

A strategic approach is required to focus on the places that have most potential for attracting overseas visitors, to strengthen the awareness and reputation of a region with the travel trade and do so in ways that attract spending tourists. 

A re-focus away from solely promoting accommodation and themed places to marketing a better blend of accommodation, attractions, bookable activities and retail is required to address the serious financial underperformance of some regions.

This blog is based on a briefing that I can give to your destination, attraction or tourism business or network.  It includes a bespoke analysis of relevant global and local data, a masterclass in telling the story of your destination and an action plan for working with the international travel trade.  Please contact me if you’d like to know more about this briefing [email protected] 01629 650068.