Yates joins on 4 May after 20 years on the consumer travel magazine, and will head a team of nine PROs in VisitBritain's London office.
Reporting to director of strategy and communications Sandie Dawe, Yates replaces Paul Gauger, who becomes regional press and PR manager, covering the Americas. From a base in New York, he will be responsible for marketing in the US, Canada, Brazil and Argentina.
Visitor numbers to Britain fell dramatically in 2001, when the UK was hit by foot-and-mouth disease and 9/11 rocked the global tourism market. However, last year saw a record year for overseas visitors, with a ten per cent increase in numbers between 2002 and 2004.
'Visitor numbers were up last year and visitor spend increased by two per cent from £12.8bn in 2000 to £13bn in 2004,' said VisitBritain forecasting manager David Edwards.
This was mostly due to strong growth in visitor numbers from Asia and Eastern Europe, with American visitor numbers still down, added Edwards.
VisitBritain is funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to market the UK as a tourist destination both internationally and domestically. Last year its grant was more than £35.5m.
It also raises an additional £17m per year through partnership marketing with regional tourism bodies, accommodation providers and airlines.
Tourism is one of the largest industries in the UK, accounting for 3.4 per cent of the economy, and was estimated to be worth £74.2bn in 2003.
VisitBritain operates in 31 overseas markets, including China, Poland, Russia and South Korea.