THE BLOG
07/08/2012 13:06 BST | Updated 07/10/2012 06:12 BST

World's Most Influential Travel Leaders Visit Britain at a Key Time for Long Term Growth

As the world watches thrilling sporting scenes from across our capital, some of the world's most influential travel trade bosses are travelling around Britain and seeing just how much there is to enjoy in these 'Isles of Wonder'.

These VIP tours are all part of VisitBritain's plan to make the very most of our weeks in the world's spotlight while we host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We are determined to use this fantastic sporting and cultural festival to build the value of tourism to Britain in the medium to long term. That means not only securing maximum free media exposure but also ensuring that Britain is featured in tour operators' brochures and packages around the world.

Our VIP visitors are here for a World Travel Leaders Summit and we are showing them some of the gems that Britain has to offer the visiting world: Bath, the Cotswolds, Liverpool, Manchester, the Lake District, Scotland and Wales.

I'm enjoying two glorious days in Wales with delegates. Already we've toured Cardiff Castle -once a Roman Fort, it's now a Victorian gothic extravaganza right in the centre of the city. We've dined at Park House, been whisked around by Cardiff Bay in a speedboat, visited the Wales Millennium Centre, tasted Welsh whisky and wine (yes it's very good) and tried our hand at cookery at Llanerch Vineyard.

My colleagues are busy showing off Blenheim Palace, the Lake District, Loch Lomond and modern hip Liverpool. They are introducing the CEOs to John Lennon's sister, to the World of Beatrix Potter and to the pomp and pageantry of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Back in London over the weekend, the visiting business leaders will meet our Tourism minister and VisitBritain's Chairman Christopher Rodrigues to discuss the opportunities for selling Britain abroad. We want to find out how we stack up against the competition, what encourages travel companies to include us in their brochures and what stops them.

Long before the Opening Ceremony we were doing our utmost to make sure that the TV watching world sees the best Britain. We worked with every broadcaster who wanted to make programmes and features on Britain, whether about food or festivals, history or music, architecture or shopping. With the BBC we also produced a series of short free films on Britain's countryside, arts, entertainment and heritage that networks around the world are now showing in their Games coverage.

Hosting the Games is a challenge for tourism. Host cities - and their countries - usually suffer a dip in tourism in the year they hold the Olympics. We have been determined to buck that trend.

So far, so good. 2012 has got off to a fine start. A record number of holidaymakers visited Britain during the first five months - 7% more than last year. Our forecast for overseas visitors for 2012 is around 31 million. This is about the same as 2011 which was a very good year for us.

I hope that my colleagues are receiving as many insights from the touring guests as I am.

It's very enlightening - to see ourselves as others see us - and I am most certainly not complacent. It's an increasingly competitive world out there. Every country wants to attract high-spending overseas visitors, especially from the big wealthy economies like USA and Germany - and also from increasingly important holidaying countries like Brazil, Russia, China and India. We do too and we want to make sure our regular visitors from North America and Europe stay in love with us.

The London 2012 Games is an unprecedented opportunity to show the best of Britain to potential holidaymakers. Our Summit this weekend is crucial. The real work starts now.