It is hard to imagine that we are already on the second half of 2015. Once again, this will be another record breaking year of unprecedented “tourism” challenges; From Greece to Tunisia, Nepal to South Africa, and so many tourism nations in between, a year again in which millions of people have seen significant disruptions in their ability of attract tourists.
I am acutely interested of the benefits that tourism brings nations. This sector not only keeps economies strong, but also affects a country’s spirit and social fabric too. It is therefore particularly painful when a nation’s tourism sector goes awry. Whether it is Greece losing tourists as Grexit debates cause uncertainty around the islands being open for business, Tunisia’s tourists fleeing from tragedy brought on by terrorizing acts of man, Mother Nature acts of unnatural awe causing Nepal’s tourism sector to tumble to the ground, or South Africa sending its tourism sector into free-fall with poorly thought through new visitor entry regulations, the list of tourism economy casualties grows.
Consequently, you can understand my intrigue, when I recently read that Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron was focusing on, and made a personal commitment to, embedding the United Kingdom as a truly ‘GREAT’ place to visit.
In what is described as an ‘unequivocal statement of support’, the Prime Minister singled out the need to ensure that Tourism – an industry generating 9% of GDP, 1 in 10 British jobs, and a GVA multiplier of 2.8 (for every £1,000 spent a further £1,800 is generated through the supply chain and consumer spending) with the over 34 million international visitors that travel to and within Great Britain each year – remains on a strong, steady growth trajectory.
But my interest increased when I read that he was looking to do more than just simply say the right things. Prime Minister Cameron is in fact putting his words into action.
How? He is creating an inter-ministerial group focused on ensuring that the doors, essential to tourism invitation and implementation, are wide open. Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has been appointed as the champion of this “great” effort for Great Britain’s tourism growth and leadership, tasked with bringing together all key public and private sector players together with a goal of inspiring travellers to easily and meaningfully explore all that Britain has to offer.
What they see is that tourism greatness in Great Britain, true greatness, is not about logos and GREAT campaigns. It is about working hand-in-hand with a sector that will have the greatest impact on the lives of their people.
The holistic thinking around this initiative is what gives me a sense of confidence that Prime Minister Cameron’s vision will come to life, and we will see more travellers visiting United Kingdom in the years to come. I think they get it: tourism growth does not occur by coincidence it requires an understanding of the vastness of the competitive environment, and defining the national tourism “product” and brand image. I believe that this approach will ensure that the tourism sector:
- Becomes a better co-ordinated sector
- Aligns private sector investments with established priorities
- Builds skills and jobs to meet the needs of the sector
- Emphasises common sense regulation
- Prioritises investment in transport and tourism-related infrastructure
- Embraces all of the above with an improved welcome, by all local destinations across the nation.
It is early days, but this common sense approach to tourism development, if actioned, will be more than just a boost to tourism in one of our key markets. It has the opportunity to become example of best-practice that other nations could, and must learn from.