London 2012 Success Prompts £10m Tourism Funding Boost

london eyeJuliette Jowit, The Guardian, August 14, 2012

Nearly 10 million more tourists should be visiting the U.K. from overseas by the end of this decade under plans to capitalise on the Olympic Games announced by Jeremy Hunt.

The culture secretary used what was billed as a keynote speech on tourism to announce record-breaking figures for visits to the U.K. and spending by tourists this year. He said reports from hotels, well known shopping areas, theatres and the credit card company Visa all showed increased business during the Games.

To ensure the interest stimulated by the Olympics and associated events, such as the torch relay and the Cultural Olympiad, continued, Hunt announced another £10m funding for tourism campaigns in the U.K. and China.

He said he had asked for a feasibility study into the idea of a biennale arts festival for London or the U.K., similar to the famous event in Venice every two years.

The target was to increase overseas visitors from just over 30m a year to 40m a year by 2020, Hunt told an audience at the Tate Modern gallery in London.

"The Olympics should be for Britain what Usain Bolt is for athletics – something that grabs the attention of the whole world and refuses to let it go," he said.

"We must use this extraordinary year to turbo-charge our tourism industry. To create jobs and prosperity on the back of a globally enhanced reputation. And to show that when we talk about Olympic legacy, tourism is an opportunity we seized and ran with all the way to the finishing line."

Of the £10m announced, £2m was for the Holiday at Home campaign aimed at encouraging people to make more trips and holidays in the UK.

The remaining £8m would be targeted at the Chinese market, where the U.K. ranks low compared with other European countries for visits, and where the ranks of the middle class, who could potentially afford such a holiday, are booming, Hunt said.

"Through this new campaign, I want us to treble the number of Chinese visitors we attract, getting to 500,000 by 2015." He said meeting that target would create 14,000 jobs and generate more than £500m a year in extra visitor spending.

The relatively modest sums follow £1bn of government money pledged to support the "Great" tourist advertising and marketing campaign at ahead of the Olympics.

The culture secretary could not help indulging in some light-hearted rivalry with one of the more successful tourist destinations: Hunt said his favourite stunt pulled off by the "Great" campaign was a billboard outside the Louvre museum in Paris boasting that, unlike the home of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa painting, the British Museum was free to enter.

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