A study looking into how overseas visitors get around the UK, often from London, has shown that job creation efforts in the vital tourism industry risk being undermined by transport operators who often do little to help foreign tourists get past all but the big name cities and attractions.
High rail fares and a lack of information in languages other than English are also proving to be barriers to incoming tourism, according to a report commissioned by VisitBritain.
It comes just a month after the Tour de France put Yorkshire on the global stage, with many hoping a boost in tourism numbers will be the event’s lasting legacy.
Challenging that expectation is a report which said very few visitor attractions marketed their services directly to overseas visitors and that virtually none of the transport providers interviewed had recognised any need for their staff to be trained in dealing with tourists.
While some locations came out of the report quite well, York was rated the best of the 20 destinations looked at thanks to information being available in 21 other languages, transport rapidly becomes more difficult for tourists heading on to countryside locations such as rural Yorkshire.
Gary Verity, chief executive of tourism group Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “There is much discussion going on at present around increased funding for more transport infrastructure for Yorkshire and the north – and that can only be a good thing. Given Yorkshire’s size and critical role in the national economy it stands to reason that any improvements in our transport networks, including our many rural areas, can only be positive for the economy and for tourism.”
The organisation said tourism is worth £7bn a year to the Yorkshire economy, underpinning thousands of jobs.
VisitBritain’s report says: “An important reason for tourists travelling outside London is to explore and enjoy the scenery or countryside. Again, transport operators seem only dimly aware of visitors’ needs, and the potential for expansion of services to meet this market.”
It adds: “A striking point to emerge from the case studies is the frequency of rail and coach services to most of the popular tourist destinations. Britain is in some ways very well connected
“It seems all the more frustrating therefore, from the viewpoint of an overseas visitor, that the value of frequent and rapid services offered by train operators is undercut by opaque pricing and haphazard onward connexions – thereby magnifying the complexity of getting away from London.”
VisitBritain head of strategy David Bishop said: “Britain has one of the finest travel infrastructures in Europe with public transport often the preferred choice of travel. Our transport network is the backbone of tourism so it’s important we continue to make it a user-friendly experience.”