VisitBritain's New Campaign

Despite a six-percent rise in international visitors to Britain over last year, VisitBritain late last month announced that it is making a $4 million marketing push to consumers under a campaign, entitled "Be a Brit Different," in an effort to entice both new and repeat visitors to come to the region. VisitBritain is using Castle Howard in its upcoming campaign

"Even though we saw our figures rise, since 9/11, Britain's share has been falling," says Alex Paul, outgoing director of travel trade for VisitBritain, the national tourism organization that aims to promote England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. "We're just trying to reengage the American traveler, and present ourselves in a different light."

London always has been a popular destination and recently ranked as the most-booked international summer vacation destination in 2007, beating out Rome, Cancun and Paris, according to a survey of 389 agencies by the American Society of Travel Agents. However, when the data is examined by region and country, Italy emerges as the top destination.

VisitBritain is looking to top that by encouraging consumers to look at regions beyond the City of Great Smoke. "The 'Be a Brit Different' campaign is about looking at and visiting Britain in a different way," says Paul. "You'll see a lot of iconic images repositioned and in a much more fun light."

VisitBritain's first ad is focused on York and features Castle Howard—which may leave you wondering, "What's so different and fun about that?"

"Britain has more castles than you can think of and everyone's got lots of castles," Paul admits, "but we're billing it so that you can stay in the castle, rather than just visiting the castle and moving on. It's more immersive."

Castle Howard also features a playground and 1,000 acres of gardens. This summer, a jazz concert will take place there on July 29 and a classical music concert on August 18.

"It's just a way of trying to connect with the U.S. consumer, to identify that Britain is more than just the iconic place to visit," Paul says. "The consumer wants to have a real experiential program and a real immersion in cultures they see. The traveler has changed...people really want to see and experience those kinds of things."

Paul explains that the consumer push will come first, followed by an agent outreach this fall. "We will come out with ways for agents to get involved with the campaigns," he says, declining to give further details. "There is a desire for VisitBritain to approach the market in a different way and it's important that we show results before we approach the trade, so that they are able to see the success of the campaign."

VisitBritain will look to agents for ideas on how the organization can serve the industry better. Paul will be moving to another position within the company, so agents can contact Amanda Dempsey, director of consumer marketing, with ideas until a replacement is named. In the meantime, more consumer marketing will be done. "If we want to continue to have strong support of the travel trade, we need to demonstrate to consumers that they're going to have more of a value proposition in Britain," Paul says. "It cannot just be a sightseeing tour."

The campaign uses the Union Jack

And so, VisitBritain's new campaign is a mix of old and new. Advertisements will continue to feature such British icons as Big Ben and the London Eye, but also will increase the usage of the Union Jack, the country's flag.

Advertising will be placed in both print and online in such diverse publications as Architectural Digest, Gourmet, Budget TravelOnline.com and NYTimes.com. E-mail newsletters will mirror the advertising campaign and spotlight key campaign partners like Virgin Atlantic Airways. To generate buzz about Britain, special events will take place throughout different markets in the U.S and an online contest will take place on the organization's revamped web site. In the coming months, agents can soon look forward to more detailed information about consumer promotions on VisitBritain's agent portal.

"It's very comprehensive," Paul says, noting that the site offers travel tips and cultural differences agents' clients should be aware of. Agents soon also will be able to find information on operators offering alternative tours in the coming months on the agent-focused portion of the web site.

"Britain is not a new destination, but it is very multi-layered and we want people to come and experience what it's like to be a bit British and what being British means," Paul says.

In fact, increasing competition from such emerging destinations as China, Vietnam, Latin America and Costa Rica also are a driver of the ambitious, three-year marketing campaign.

"The American traveler is looking for more adventure; their ambitions are far wider," Paul says. "The change is very welcome, because there is some very good competition out there, and we want to make sure Britain is repositioned as a must-see place and place to return to, as well."

FastFacts

Agent Contacts

Phone: 800-462-2748
Web: www.visitbritain.com/traveltrade
Agent Liaison:
Amanda Dempsey, amanda.dempsey@visitbritain.org