Family Travel Association Q&A with Gavin Landry, executive vice president for the Americas, VisitBritain

Family Travel Association Q&A with Gavin Landry, executive vice president for the Americas, VisitBritain

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As the national tourism organization for Great Britain, VisitBritain is focused on marketing one of the world’s most popular and beloved destinations. But even destinations with a well-established fan base have had to carefully navigate the challenges posed by the continually evolving COVID-19 pandemic and its variants.

FTA recently chatted with VisitBritain’s Executive Vice President for the Americas, Gavin Landry, about how the organization has responded to the unique circumstances of the past year, while still managing to reach consumers and keep Britain top of mind as a destination. Here’s what Gavin had to say about 2021 and his outlook for the year ahead.

FTA:
First, please tell FTA members a little bit about your organization and mission.

GL:
VisitBritain is the national tourism organization for Great Britain, and our mission is to make tourism one of the most successful and productive sectors in the UK. Internationally, we work to support the industry and drive inbound tourism to Britain year-round, across England, Scotland and Wales.

Our global network connects us to key markets around the world, and in North America we have teams in New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto.

The US and Canada are incredibly important markets to the British tourism industry: the US is Britain’s most valuable inbound market, spending £4.2 billion in 2019, and also the number one market for visits, representing around 4.5 million or 11% of total visits to the UK in 2019. Canada is part of the Commonwealth and our connections run deep; one third of Canadians trace their heritage back to the UK, and Canadians spent a record £724 million in the UK in 2019.

We work closely with travel trade across the UK and North America, including with partners like the Family Travel Association, to help the industry stay informed and make the connections they need to better sell travel to Britain.

FTA:
Please tell FTA members about the various unique challenges you’ve faced when it comes to marketing travel to the UK amid the ongoing challenges associated with COVID-19 and its regularly emerging variants.

 

GL:
One of the marketing challenges that we faced last year was how to reach consumers and keep Britain top of mind as a destination, at a time when travelers and the industry were facing uncertainty.

With our world-class cultural attractions, exciting food scene, and outstanding natural beauty, Britain offers something for every kind of traveller, and VisitBritain research shows that one in three US travelers have either taken a multi-generational trip recently or would consider taking one. As we planned for the industry’s recovery we were eager to connect with families at home so that Britain remained top of mind when they planned their next trip.

While international travel was paused, we brought Britain to North American audiences at home through our online channels including VisitBritain.com and our Instagram account, sharing the best of Britain’s culture and virtual visitor attractions from film and TV to music, heritage, literature, gardens and British food and drink.

VisitBritain also rolled out its ‘Escape the Everyday’ campaign internationally, highlighting the quality destinations, visitor attractions and experiences on offer across the UK’s cities, countryside and coast to boost tourism across the shoulder season and beyond.

We know how important messages of welcome and reassurance are to boosting confidence in visiting Britain – as well as showing that our outstanding tourism offer is ready and waiting for when visitors return – and so staying connected with the US and Canadian markets through our digital channels remains essential.

FTA:
What are some of the most effective actions you’ve taken or ways you’ve found to work around these challenges in order to continue to attract visitors amid the current realities of the world?

GL:
Another clear ask of us from the industry was to develop an industry standard that would reassure travel advisors, event planners and visitors that British tourism businesses, attractions, venues and destinations are opening with clear processes in place when restrictions are lifted.

Over 50,000 businesses have registered with our ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry standard mark, reassuring visitors that UK tourism businesses, attractions and destinations are following guidance to welcome them back safely.

Attractions may also continue to manage visitor numbers by requiring guests to book a timed entry slot or purchase admission in advance. Visitors are encouraged to check ahead for restrictions before traveling to a destination – and to “Know Before You Go” – so that they are not caught by surprise or miss out on an experience because they didn’t book in advance.

Britain’s tourism industry has worked extremely hard to make sure it is ready to welcome visitors back safely, adapting and innovating to meet new ways of working and still providing a great experience.

FTA:

What advice would you give other destinations when it comes to operating at a time when variants are an issue of concern? Are there any lessons learned or best practices you can share?

GL:

The past two years have brought huge challenges to the international travel industry – many of which we’re still facing, in the UK as well as in the US and Canada. However, these tough times have also revealed the resilience and adaptability of our industry.

Public health and safety remains the UK Government’s first priority, and as the situation with Covid-19 has evolved official guidance and inbound travel regulations have changed accordingly.

My answers to questions two and three outline our approach and also the actions taken. We know that messages of reassurance including on the practicalities of travel remain crucial in boosting consumer confidence as does highlighting our welcome.

We also continue to working closely with our travel trade and partners in-market to promote the very best of destination Britain to drive bookings, as well as highlighting messages of reassurance and welcome. We know there is pent-up demand for travel and ensuring our partners in market are ready to sell Britain is crucial to driving back bookings and visitor spending.

FTA:

Are you optimistic about travel for 2022? Please discuss your feelings on this front and what makes you feel this way?

GL:

While we remain vigilant, flexible and agile in our approach to welcome visitors back to Britain, we are certainly optimistic about the return of travel in 2022. From our team’s research, we know there is a significant pent up demand to travel internationally as soon as people are able to, and 2022 is the year to visit Britain.

We’re set to launch a multi-million-pound international marketing campaign in January. It will align with the UK Government’s refreshed GREAT campaign and will bring to life reasons to visit Britain in 2022.

There is really so much to look forward to with an incredible line-up of exciting events in 2022—all presenting timely and valuable opportunities to promote our welcome, creativity and innovation to the world and the UK’s ability to host events of the highest calibre – including. The Commonwealth Games, The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, ‘Unboxed: Creativity in the UK 2022’ and UEFA Women’s Euros, shining the spotlight on our world-class tourism offer.

With these key events, along with the upcoming launch of our international marketing campaign, we want to assure our visitors that they can visit Britain safely, and that our world-class hospitality, cultural attractions, and natural beauty will be waiting for them when they do.

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