x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

VisitBritain seeks Gulf tourists, partners with Emirates Airline

VisitBritain, the UK's national tourism agency, wants to attract more visitors from the Arabian Gulf to Britain by entering into a marketing deal with Emirates Airline.

VisitBritain hopes attraction such as the Big Ben and the London Eye will help to attract visitors from the Middle East. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images
VisitBritain hopes attraction such as the Big Ben and the London Eye will help to attract visitors from the Middle East. Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

VisitBritain, the United Kingdom's national tourism agency, wants to attract more visitors from the Arabian Gulf to Britain by entering into a marketing deal with Emirates Airline.

About 500,000 people from the Gulf visit the UK every year. Of those, half are from the UAE. Visit Britain aims to increase that number by 30 per cent by 2020.

The agency already has a partnership with British Airways in the region. Under the agreement both partners put in cash to promote Britain as a destination and the carrier offers deals on flights.

"We do plan to step up our activity in the region," VisitBritain's chief executive, Sandie Dawe, said during a sales mission to Abu Dhabi yesterday. "We've been very focused on Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but we do want to be doing more in the region as a whole. We are quite confident we will get something up and running with Emirates."

Britain's image worldwide received a boost when London hosted the Olympic Games last year and the nation celebrated the queen's diamond jubilee. While there had been concern that the Games would deter other visitors, the number of tourists increased by 1 per cent last year and tourist spending rose by 4 per cent.

This "made it a record year in terms of visitor spend to the UK", according to Ms Dawe. "So actually it was a really good outcome."

London was the epicentre of last year's events and the capital has always been a popular destination for Gulf visitors. VisitBritain is now trying to convince Middle Eastern tourists to explore more of the country. Representatives from Ireland, Scotland, Manchester, Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds accompanied Ms Dawe on her trip.

Middle Eastern visitors "are absolutely looking for a contrast to here, an escape from the heat here in the summer," Ms Dawe said. "They are looking for mostly a city/urban environment, shopping and things-to-do-with-the-family attractions."

Select Travel Service, a travel agency that joined the sales mission, offers a "Bollywood in Britain" package designed to capitalise on the popularity of Bollywood films among Arabs and South Asians in the Middle East.

The tour invites participants to walk in the footsteps of Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Katrina Kaif and see British filming locations associated with Bollywood blockbusters.

Ms Dawe also said VisitBritain planned to increase its use of social media in Arabic. VisitBritain already has 10,000 users following its Arabic Twitter feed.

 

lgutcher@thenational.ae