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Tuesday, 17 July, 2018, 16 : 23 PM [IST]

‘We are extending our trade activity to Tier-II cities in India’

VisitBritain is expecting to generate an additional GBP 10 in spending from visitors from India through its ‘Find Your GREAT Britain, I Travel For…’ campaign launched earlier this year. Vishal Bhatia, Country Manager - India, VisitBritain, throws light on importance of this market, surge in visitor numbers and spend, their focus segments, and the tourism situation post Brexit, in an interaction with Disha Shah Ghosh.
Q The UK has long been a preferred destination for leisure, student as well as VFR traffic from India. What kind of investment is VisitBritain making in India to keep the momentum going? Also, what kind of inbound numbers & tourism spend have you recorded from India in 2017?
VisitBritain is the UK’s national tourism agency and promotes Britain as a visitor destination as part of the UK Government’s GREAT campaign.

India is a huge tourism opportunity for VisitBritain. It is one of our priority GREAT markets. We recognise its long-term potential as an inbound tourism market. We have a team and offices in-country and we invest more here.

VisitBritain wants the UK to be the destination of choice for Indian travellers. We are investing in relevant partnerships with the trade, airlines and the media to drive growth, amplify our marketing reach and boost bookings to the UK.

Visits from India to the UK were up 32% in the first nine months of 2017 to a record 436,000 visits, compared to the same period the previous year. Visitors from India spent a record GBP 355 million in the UK during this period, up 7% compared to January to September 2016

With the UK’s visitor attractions, accommodation and shops offering good value for Indian travellers right now, it is a great time to book a trip.

Forward-bookings data shows that flight bookings from South Asia to the UK, from June to August, are tracking 7% ahead compared to the same period in 2017.

With the Indian national cricket team touring England this summer, and England and Wales hosting the Cricket World Cup in 2019, there are also great opportunities to inspire Indian travellers to explore more of the country.

Q Any plans to expand your team in India to reach out to the travel community considering India is a diverse market? And which are the new traveller segments are you looking at targeting?
VisitBritain expanded its team in-country last year, from three staff to five based in Mumbai and Delhi. This includes a senior trade relations role as trade is vital for our business.

We are inspiring Indian travellers to book a trip to Britain through our global marketing campaign ‘Find Your GREAT Britain, ‘I Travel For…’ launched in India in February this year. This digital campaign is developed on VisitBritain’s research into what motivates Indian travellers.

Our primary audience in India are what we term ‘buzz-seekers,’ young people aged 25-44, couples and families. In India, ‘I Travel For…’ tells the stories of Britain’s contemporary culture, its innovations in food and drink, the beauty of the countryside and the vibrancy of its cities, as well as showcasing less-explored destinations in London and beyond.

We are also targeting corporate entities and incentive groups in India to choose the UK for their events. The UK is a premier destination for business events. We are engaging with key corporate entities and trade in India to showcase our world-class venues and activities, and to highlight ease of access to the UK.

In 2017, about 1.5 million seats were available to passengers on direct, non-stop flights from India to the UK, with an average of 110 scheduled services per week. Direct flights from India to the UK have higher seat capacity than any other European country. Connecting routes on Middle Eastern carriers have also been growing fast, providing access to travellers from Tier-I and II cities within India to regional British cities including Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Q The UK government’s decision to exclude Indian students from the list of countries considered ‘low risk’ for visa applications has drawn a lot of flak. In an atmosphere like this, what kind of message you would like to send out considering India is among your priority markets?
We welcome all initiatives that improve our competitive tourism offer globally. The UK has 18 Visa Application Centres in India, more than in any other country, and has continued to expand its premium and priority services. VisitBritain does not undertake visa processing however, we continue to talk to the India travel trade and businesses to understand their concerns.

Q What kind of changes will come into force for the tourism industry in the UK post the implementation of Brexit?
It is business as usual for VisitBritain. We have seen record numbers of visitors coming to the UK. They are reminder of the crucial role that tourism has in offering a warm welcome, and they show our continued ability to compete internationally for visitors in a fiercely competitive global industry

We want the UK to top the list as the must-go-now destination for visitors from India and are integrating a strong value and welcome message into our campaigns.

India is a priority inbound visitor market for VisitBritain. India is forecast to generate 22 million outbound overnight trips globally by 2020 and, with the Indian economy growing at a rapid pace, inbound tourism to the UK from this market looks set to continue to grow.

Q London still continues to dominate the interest of Indian travellers. Which are the new destinations & attractions you are looking at launching & pushing in the Indian market?
Visitors from India spend more in the UK and stay longer than the average inbound visitor, spending more than half their time outside London.

We know that visitors from India rate the UK for its outstanding natural beauty and its interesting and exciting contemporary culture, with the vibrancy of cities like Manchester and Liverpool holding huge appeal.

Our content and digital marketing inspires visitors from India to not only stay longer in Britain but to explore the countryside and cities beyond London.
VisitBritain is working with partners in India including tour operators, OTAs and airlines to promote regional destinations and make it easier for visitors from India to book and explore more of the country. We are developing new ‘themed’ products and itineraries for the Indian travel trade and our travel partners, and promoting the ease of rail travel within the UK

We are launching a new ‘Experience England’ product in India later this year, making it easier to visit London and discover other parts of England as part of the same holiday. It includes open jaw-ticketing, travel between destinations and seamless baggage transfer. Visitors will depart from a different English city to the one they entered, ensuring minimal travel and maximum holiday time.

We continue to host journalists from India who will travel across the country this year experiencing more of regional England. We are also promoting family travel during the winter months with a campaign focused on London, Manchester and Liverpool.

Q In February, VisitBritain launched a social media campaign in the Indian market. What kind of return are you expecting from this kind of investment?
VisitBritain’s digital campaign ‘Find Your GREAT Britain, I Travel For…’ is building on the strong growth we have seen in visits from India. This ‘always-on’ campaign is engaging potential travellers, inspiring them to book a holiday to the UK right now and to explore more of the country. The campaign is resonating with target audiences in India, reaching 56 million people to date.

Every pound invested in the campaign is expected to generate an additional GBP 10 in spending from visitors from India.

Q Besides ExploreGB & participation in trade shows in India, what activities have been chalked to educate and empower the travel trade fraternity in India?
VisitBritain appreciates and values the importance of the travel trade in the India market and works closely with them. We are extending our activity to Tier-II cities, holding training sessions on UK destinations

and the latest tourism products and experiences on offer.
We continue to host educational trips to destinations across the UK for the travel trade and to run campaigns with our trade partners, introducing new products and customised itineraries focused on food and drink, culture and rail.

We very much encourage the Indian travel trade to use the tools we have created. Our VisitBritain Trade website, completely rebranded last year, is a specialist tool for travel agents and tour operators. This site is the go-to-place for sample itineraries, accommodation updates, as well as a UK supplier directory and practical information on visiting the UK.

VisitBritain has also revamped its image ‘bank’ that the trade can use to download destination images for use on their website, brochures and other collateral by registering on
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