Britain launched on Thursday its biggest ever campaign to attract visitors to its shores, exploiting a unique year in which London will host the Olympics and Queen Elizabeth celebrates 60 years on the throne.
is the largest ad (campaign) in our history, said Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for culture, Olympics, media and sport of the 125 million pound trade and tourism initiative.
We're taking the fight for the tourist pound right to our competitors' doorsteps... there will be no escape from the message that Britain is great.
The international trade and tourism drive is split into a 25 million image campaign and a 100 million pounds tactical campaign invested over a four-year period across 20 source markets, to be co-funded by companies including British Airways, easyJet, P&O Ferries and Radisson Hotels .
Britain, already the sixth most visited country in the world, plans to splash images promoting its heritage around airports, metro stations and road junctions in 14 cities around the globe, with the aim of attracting over 4.6 million extra visitors over the next four years, and securing an additional 2.3 billion pounds in visitor spend.
The cities include Los Angeles, Tokyo, Beijing, New Delhi and Sydney.
If you are looking for one traditional British quality that you won't see this year, that is modesty, Hunt said.
The campaign is a cross-department effort between tourism agency VisitBritain, the British Council (educational marketing) and UK Trade and Investment (business investment marketing).
USING THE GAMES
Critics have questioned whether the UK requires such a costly awareness-raising campaign in a year when the UK will already be receiving unsurpassed attention from the eyes of the world. But the government message is clear: There is nothing automatic about a tourism boost, Games or no Games.
It is an incredible privilege to host the Olympics, and we want to do everything we can to make sure that the legacy from hosting the Games is jobs... for British businesses as a lasting legacy, Hunt told journalists today.
Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain added that 2012 is a critical year for the long-term success of British tourism.
The cross-department group aim to convert interest in the UK into the decision to actually commit to visiting.
Shanghai and Beijing commuters will have already noticed the posters that line the cities' metro stations. Two hundred Mumbai taxis will be dressed in the campaign's creative, as will New York subway trains.
In a move which Hunt admits is cheeky, a billboard outside the Louvre in Paris bellows out the message that Culture is GREAT Britain, and that museums are actually free in London. GREAT will also link up with international events such as next week's New York Fashion Week.
Overall, the campaign is expected to reach 90 million people.
The UK travel industry figures worry that fewer traditional, foreign tours will come to London this summer.
The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) announced after a November 2011 survey a dramatic reduction in bookings during the summer 2012 period.
The group said visitors will be put off by the London crowds and the possibility of higher hotel prices. European travel is also likely to be significantly affected by the ongoing euro zone crisis.
Hunt has in recent months regularly dismissed fears that tourists will stay away from Britain during the Olympics, listing the many other cultural reasons for people to visit.
Today, the minister painted a picture of 2012 as a series of massive promotional punches, from the cross-country Olympic torch relay on May 18, through the Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June, the Olympics' opening ceremony on July 27 and the London Festival 2012, a 12-week programme of concerts, exhibitions, films and live events which marks the culmination of the four-year Cultural Olympiad.
Hunt said an extra 600,000 international visitors were expected because of the Games.
The government is seeking to bolster UK domestic tourism in 2012 with a four million pound advertising campaign, beginning March 8, which extols the virtues of staying home and watching the Olympic.
(Reporting by Peter Myers; editing by Keith Weir)