PUBLIC SECT0R: Merged body to target overseas tourists

Countries such as Russia and South Korea are probable targets for a PR push from Britain's merged tourism bodies.

China, Malaysia and Poland are also under consideration for a future PR push by the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourism Council, which are to merge by April next year. The five were picked because they have shown year-on-year increases in visitor numbers and spending.

Culture secretary Tessa Jowell revealed a plan to merge the bodies in a bid to better promote the country overseas. The merger will see the creation of an as-yet-unnamed new body to market Britain overseas and, for the first time, promote England within Britain.

The Government will hand the merged entity a one-off, three-year £10m payment if sufficient backing is gained from the private sector for upcoming promotional work.

BTA's 'Only in Britain' campaign - a £40m public-private partnership launched earlier this year - is set to continue in 2003. The BTA is currently hunting corporate backing for the scheme.

A promotional campaign focusing on all 12 UK cities that launched bids to become EU City of Culture in 2008 will also launch next year. Only six are now in the running for the title after the others were rejected last week.

The ETC and BTA are currently based in the same building in west London.

Both organisations insisted the structure of the merged entity's comms team would not be decided until next year.

BTA corporate PR manager Orla Farren said: 'This is not about cost-cutting. There has been no mention of redundancies.'

In 2001 English residents on overseas holidays spent £13.2bn more than inbound and domestic tourists combined. ETC chairman Alan Britten said: 'After foot-and-mouth it became blindingly obvious something was missing.

The tourism deficit was accelerating alarmingly.'

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