Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the London Tourist Board and Convention Bureau


  (a)  London Tourist Board and Convention Bureau (LTB) is the official tourist organisation for Greater London. It is financed by the Department for Culture Media and Sport via the London Development Agency, London Borough Grants, membership subscriptions and commercial activity. Currently it has 850 members including London Boroughs, hotels, attractions, restaurants, retailers, tour operators, transport providers, meetings venues and event organisers. Its role is to promote and market London as the most exciting city destination in the world and to advocate quality improvements to tourism infrastructure and services.

  (b)  Tourism is vital to London's economy. It is worth £8 billion per annum and represents 8 per cent of the City's GDP. More than 275,000 London residents are employed by the tourism industry. More than 28 million people visit London each year—14 million from within the UK and 14 million from overseas. The primary overseas markets for London are the US (2.7 million visitors) followed by France (1.2 million) and Germany (1.1 million).

  (c)  London has a unique gateway role in British tourism, 70 per cent of overseas visitors arrive in London and 20 per cent of overseas visitors to London travel on to other parts of the country. London accounts for 50 per cent of expenditure by overseas visitors in the UK.

2.  Impact of Foot and Mouth Disease

  (a)  The London tourist industry initially reported little impact from the foot and mouth outbreak. However, as the peak tourism season approaches, the industry in general is reporting a decline in business and there is now a marked reduction in forward bookings, primarily from overseas, in the hotel and airline sectors.

  (b)  London is affected because:

    —  inaccurate reporting around the world has led to negative perceptions about Britain in general, particularly in London's prime overseas market, the USA; and

    —  it is the gateway to the rest of the UK and both day and longer stay visits outside London are being drastically curtailed.

  (c)  A recent survey of LTB's 850 members shows that the hardest hit sector is hotels, with 43 per cent reporting a significant impact. Visitor attractions are faring slightly better with only 16 per cent reporting significant impact. In 2001, there is the potential for a 15-20 per cent drop in visitor numbers, which could mean a potential loss in London of direct tourism revenue of some £1.6 billion. The consequential multiplier effect of a loss of this magnitude will be considerable.

  (d)  While LTB acknowledges that parts of the rural economy have suffered greater relative losses of business than London, such is the pre-eminence of London in the UK's overseas tourism receipts, that London is equally damaged by ill-informed perceptions and the major impact of foot and mouth across the country. In financial terms, the current downturn of business in London will be as significant as in other areas.

3.  Action by LTB

  (a)  LTB is surveying its members on an ongoing basis to monitor the economic impact of foot and mouth. This will be a challenging year for the industry as the foot and mouth outbreak has coincided with a downturn in the US economy. In addition, over the last few years perceptions in Europe of London as an expensive destination have increased due to the relative weakness of the Euro against the pound.

  (b)  LTB has taken steps to alleviate the misperceptions of Britain in the USA. Teresa Wickham, Chairman of the LTB, was in New York from 2-6 April 2001, meeting with the BTA, travel industry leaders and travel/consumer media. There is a great deal of confusion in the market regarding the facts of foot and mouth and what is open in Britain. Food safety is also a key issue. Both media and travel trade believe that it is vital that US visitors are given incentives to travel this year.

  (c)  LTB is implementing a comprehensive communications campaign both within the UK and overseas. LTB is working with its members to promote value-added packages and incentives for people to holiday here and will feed through special offers to BTA and to the US media. However, discounting should not be the only focus as the long-term effects of price reductions could further damage the industry.

  (d)  LTB has generated sustained coverage of the issue in local, national and international media, including regular broadcast interviews on BBC News Room South East, London Today/Tonight, LBC Radio and BBC London Live. Ongoing media exposure enhances the message that London is unaffected by foot and mouth, encouraging people to travel to Britain, and highlights the importance of the tourism industry in London. Other activity has included working with the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, on a media event to mark the start of the peak tourism season on 19 April 2001.

  (e)  LTB has been given £75,000 by ETC for a domestic campaign to encourage short break visitors to London. The campaign will focus on regional media relations and distribution of a "Summer in the City" leaflet, produced in conjunction with a major domestic tour operator and distributed through supermarkets across the UK.

  (f)  LTB worked with BTA on last week's Tourism Leaders' Summit and LTB is working closely with ETC and BTA on national and international recovery plans, reinforcing London's unique role as a gateway to the rest of the UK. Substantial marketing funds are required to restore confidence in Britain as a destination.

4.  Conclusion

  (a)  LTB continues to work with all sections of the tourist industry and bodies such as the BTA and ETC to ensure a co-ordinated approach to this situation. The Government's role should be to support this work and provide a major injection of funding for marketing not only during this crucial period but also in the medium to longer term, to restore confidence in Britain as a tourist destination once the crisis has subsided. The Government must take decisive action now to assist the tourism industry in maximising its communications programme to counteract rapid decline in business over summer 2001.

  (b)  LTB would submit to the Committee that it should recommend strongly to Government that it funds a major relaunch of UK tourism once the foot and mouth crisis has passed. LTB will work with its private sector members in particular to raise matched marketing funds. It has successfully done this over the last five years under the "Focus London" project funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and believes that co-ordinated and creative marketing activity, reaching threshold levels to gain impact in key markets, is crucial in the increasingly competitive world tourism industry.

April 2001

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