Britain’s main tourist agency is to make the countryside the centrepiece of its next major campaign in an effort to pull overseas visitors away from London and out into the regions.
VisitBritain said new research shows the great British countryside is under-rated by high-spending tourists and so is preparing to switch the focus of its overseas advertising onto iconic rural areas such as the Yorkshire Dales.
The agency announced in December it had been handed an extra £90 million by Ministers to fund its high-profile “Great” campaign over the next two years to entice more high-spending visitors from abroad.
VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues told The Yorkshire Post that combined with this summer’s Grand Depart of the Tour de France, the new approach will help propel the region’s beauty spots onto the world stage.
“We know that enjoyment of scenic, natural beauty and the great outdoors is a major consideration when choosing a leisure destination, which is why we’re working to show the world what a great rural tourism offer exists in Britain,” Mr Rodrigues said.
“Yorkshire attracts nearly £600 million annually from international visitors, with its countryside, villages and national parks a key draw - such is the appeal of these fabulous assets that those choosing to holiday in the region are more likely to include these delights on their itinerary than those in most other areas.”
VisitBritain undertakes regular studies of overseas perceptions of the UK as part of its efforts to pull in more visitors from abroad.
The agency said that Britain is always rated highly for its world-famous culture, heritage and sports - but that its stunning rural and coastal areas are less well known abroad.
In a recent global survey of the world’s 50 richest nations, natural beauty was the only area in which Britain did not rank in the top ten.
VisitBritain’s ‘Great’ campaign, launched initially to tie in with the 2012 Olympics, has previously focused on aspects of British life thought to have most appeal for overseas visitors.
The agency says people who see their posters in key ‘markets’ such as China and the US are twice as likely to come to Britain in the next three years.
Mr Rodrigues said: “We’ve just witnessed a record year for overseas visitors coming to Britain, not only in terms of bums on seats, but also in what is being spent when they’re here.
“What we’re striving to do now is ensure that we’re showing the world what a ‘Great’ countryside we have, and highlighting cities and towns beyond London.
“We want to remind people that Britain might be a small island, but it’s characterised by a huge variety of landscapes and a wealth of beautiful destinations to explore.”
The issue is hugely important to Yorkshire, which has a tourism industry worth billions of pounds per year and remains the third biggest employer in the region.
Yet only half of overseas visitors to the UK even get beyond London.
VisitBritain hopes an increased focus on countryside areas will help to significantly boost that figure.
Yorkshire’s stunning rural beauty spots are already set to be showcased on the global stage this summer with the arrival of the Tour de France’s Grand Depart.
Mr Rodrigues said: “This year’s Grand Départ of the Tour de France will be a highlight of the summer and great opportunity for the region to shine on the global stage, with the stunning Yorkshire Dales, the elegance of Harrogate and the climb of the peloton up Holme Moss all set to provide a fantastic and memorable backdrop.”