Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt says that the Olympic Games will give tourism in the UK a big boost for the coming years. This statement came as he set out the government’s strategy to uplift tourism in the wake of the Games. There could be an extra 4.5 million people visit the country in the years to come, which will create 60,000 more jobs and £2 billion in extra spending. He says ministers are looking to simplify visa applications for non-European Union nationals as well.
There were concerns that tourists were avoiding London over the two weeks of the Games. However, Hunt says the impact of the events on tourism needs to be considered for the long run – not just the two weeks. The effect of the Games is very disruptive, and tour groups in any city that hosts the events say they will avoid the city during the summer due to how busy it will be. However, there is also a long-term boost to the cities’ reputations. They get a big tourism boost, but this has to be capitalised on.
Hunt went on to say that the opening and closing ceremonies for the Games did a lot to make the British capital one of the most appealing destinations in the world to visit. He thinks they have to ensure this interest in London and the UK is turned into a concrete desire for tourists to take their holidays here.
The culture secretary also set out how the government will make the most of the attention the UK got from around the world during the Games. Overall, Hunt has announced an extra £10 million in funding for tourism campaigns in Britain and China. The government plans to invest £2 million of this into marketing the UK to locals, encouraging staycations; and the industry will match this figure. He has also asked for a feasibility study into having a biennale arts festival in London or somewhere else in Britain – similar to the popular event held in Venice every two years.
The other £8 million will be targeted to the Chinese market. They will focus on attracting travellers from China, where they think there’s a possibility of tripling visitor numbers. This would generate over £500 million in extra spending and create over 14,000 jobs. They also want to uplift domestic tourism and make UK holidays more attractive.
Hunt also indicated that the nation’s tourism industry is at a disadvantage since it’s not part of the Schengen visa system. This scheme allows travellers to use the same visa for several countries across Europe. He admitted that tour groups are deterred from including Britain in their itineraries, but he insists the UK visa application process will be made faster. He says they want to review if there’s more they can do make their process work with applying for a Schengen visa.
The government is also considering giving a boost to tourism through ensuring the friendliness exhibited by the 70,000 volunteers for the Olympic Games is continued. When they promote the UK overseas, Hunt added, they can do something they never thought possible before – saying tourists should visit the country because it’s friendly. They thought this was one of their weaker points before, but they have proved it isn’t to people from across the globe.Author's Google+ page