Later today, along with Secretary of State Maria Miller MP, we will be announcing a pioneering strategy for Britain's travel and tourism industry. It highlights the potential for visitor numbers to the UK to grow by 23 per cent to 40 million by 2020, the potential to create 131,000 jobs and the potential to generate nearly £9 billion in additional visitor spend annually.
Few British industries are as strong as travel and tourism, and few have such growth potential. But achieving this will not be easy. It requires an unprecedented level of collaboration and partnership between the travel industry, the public sector and Government. As an organisation, we can support this - but it cannot deliver growth on its own.
We start from a position of strength. Against the expectations of many pundits 2012 was a year of record spending by inbound visitors. And we have evidence to show that the imagery of the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee coupled with the GREAT campaign has enhanced the attraction of Britain and increased people's desire to visit.
But it was always clear that this advantage, once achieved, would rapidly dissipate if we did not actively raise our game to convert intent into action. We don't just want people to find Britain appealing, we want them to visit.
So during 2012, VisitBritain undertook a robust analysis of Britain's competitive position in each our 21 main markets − identifying both the opportunities for growth and the barriers to delivering it.
Four themes emerged which we must collectively pursue if we are to achieve the full potential of this great British industry.
Specifically we need to:
• continue to develop Britain's image overseas
• strengthen distribution through the travel trade, particularly in new markets
• broaden our product and develop new itineraries to encourage visitors to return, and to attract new markets
• make it easier to visit Britain by improving the visa process; increasing aviation capacity and promoting new air routes, particularly from emerging markets.
In some markets, such as China and the UAE, we simply need to take advantage of the rapid growth in outbound travel. In other more mature markets such as the USA, we need to present Britain in new and fresh ways and to point out hidden gems, in order to encourage visitors, who think they've 'done' Britain, to return, and to attract younger travellers who are less familiar with Britain. In a third group of markets we need to get our attractions into the minds of emerging travellers and the agents who serve them. Finally there are some markets which we need to nurture - where citizens are getting wealthier and travelling abroad in large numbers such as Malaysia and Mexico.
The good news is that our tourism objectives align closely with those of our colleagues at UK Trade and Investment and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The GREAT campaign has made us all realise that we are more effective when we pull together behind a common message and work together on events and campaigns. Britain's image and its trading power depend on, and are reinforced by, the success of our travel industry which attracts business people and students as well as family, friends and holidaymakers.
In an industry that understandably focuses on daily load factors and occupancy rates we now need to develop a more long-term approach to market development. Our consultation has convinced us the time is right. Together with our public and private sector partners we are ready to build on the amazing success of 2012 to boost visitor numbers and spend in the UK.
VisitBritain has demonstrated our ability to deliver effective marketing and to secure match-funding from partners which doubles the Government's cash. Research shows that the investment in our GREAT campaign is paying off. The campaign has successfully increased likelihood to visit Britain among our key audiences.
Tourism is the industry that can deliver the economic legacy of the 2012 Games. It is an industry that can deliver jobs quickly - right across Britain and at all skills levels - and much needed economic growth. Every £40,000 spent by overseas visitors to Britain can create a new job.
The strategy enables us to build, grow and deliver a Golden Legacy for tourism.
To read the strategy in full go to www.visitbritain.org