Last updated: 06:00 PM ET, Wed July 15 2015

Innovative Brits Use the Latest Tools

Destination & Tourism | VisitBritain | James Ruggia | July 15, 2015

Innovative Brits Use the Latest Tools

Photo courtesy of Visit Britain/James McCormick

Once again, the British are out in front in the marketing of their destination. The latest innovation comes from VisitBritain, which recently commissioned a series of immersive 360-degree experiences. These experiences give potential visitors an inside look at some of Britain’s most popular attractions.

It’s that sort of creativity that got Britain a top ranking in the recent report of Top 1,000 Travel Destinations on Twitter published by @VisitLondon took the top spot with 349,000 followers, while @VisitBritain ranked second with 297,000 followers. The ratio between those aggregate numbers of followers puts VisitBritain’s challenge into mathematical focus. In VisitBritain’s ideal equation the country’s marketing should contain the capital city’s marketing.

Like the Twitter platforms, the destination is doing splendidly, but it’s a question of getting visitors beyond London. As part of VisitBritain’s GREAT campaign, the immersive 360 degree experiences is designed to spread international visitors more broadly across the nations and regions of Britain. “Not only will this immersive experience allow potential visitors to snoop around some of our greatest tourist attractions before they arrive, but it will inspire and motivate more travel across the country,” said Joss Croft, VisitBritain’s marketing director.

VisitBritain’s London Plus strategy seems to be working well in this regard as over the last two years international visitation to almost all other parts of the U.K. has grown faster than London. The growth leaders in 2014 were Yorkshire, then Scotland and the North East. Wales saw a three-fold increase and Scotland saw a 50 percent increase in the number of nights spent by visitors from the markets where the GREAT campaign was deployed. VisitBritain will use its Countryside is GREAT campaign to continue re-balancing the country's tourism economy.

The entire panoramic series is located on the new site. The 360-degree panoramas were created by 360 degree specialist Rod Edwards. The 360 degree series includes immersive experiences in Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Cardiff Castle, Chatsworth House, Conwy Castle, Durdle Door, Durham Cathedral, Portmeirion, Rosslyn Chapel, Salisbury Cathedral and Warwick Castle.

Social Media Outreach

“Maintaining and consistently improving our social media strategy is crucial to inspiring our audiences around the world every day,” said Meredith Pearson, director of public relations and communications for VisitBritain in the U.S. “Not only do we post engaging and entertaining content to our followers, most importantly we encourage them to share their favorite British experiences with us – whether that’s tweeting a periscope video from their visit to the British countryside or sharing their Instagram photos from their city escapes. This has been crucial to the growth and engagement in all our platforms.” VisitBritain can be followed on social media on Twitter at @VisitBritain; on Instagram at LoveGreatBritain; on Facebook at Love Great Britain; and on Pinterest at Love Great Britain.

In March, VisitBritain and Yahoo reached out to app developers across Britain to take part in a 24-hour “Hackathon” challenge to produce a new mobile app for tourists visiting the country. The winning design is being further developed and will be released as the new VisitBritain mobile app later this year.

While the design of the app was open to interpretation by the participants, they were required to form their ideas around the Travel Time API platform, which locates, ranks and sorts content by travel duration rather than distance. The platform shows the user where they can travel to within a certain timeframe and using a certain mode of transport - for example, thirty minutes’ driving, or two hours on a train.

“VisitBritain are brand leaders when it comes to innovation in the digital space and we are thrilled to partner with them on this event,” said Emma Jowett, director of client sales at Yahoo. “Hackathons are great ways to get the creative juices flowing and this is a fantastic start to VisitBritain’s plans for their mobile app launch later this year.”

On the private industry side, recently improved its site, adding new British accommodations partnerships, simplifying the navigation and becoming mobile and tablet friendly. Users can now select a British destination by city, county or region from a drop down to find recommended pubs, cottages and other options including a See & Do section that has added more than 500 sightseeing options.

In January, Oliver's Travels, a villa specialist in the Caribbean and Europe, took footage from aerial drones to give potential guests a new way to tour their villas, chateaux and holiday homes in the U.K. and France. The campaign is located on the website’s Drone Zone video page.

It’s not all cyber. After all, London did get a £244 million boost to its economy just by hosting World Travel Market London last November. About 51,500 participants gathered at the ExCeL, London’s exhibition center for the event. As business deals worth more than £2.5 billion were negotiated at the ExCel, another £244,340,223 million was spent on London hotels, restaurants, flights and other discretionary spending.

It all adds up to a record 34.8 million international visitors in 2014, which reflects a growth of 6 percent on 2013. Altogether they spent another record £21.7 billion (a growth of 3 percent). VisitBritain is projecting that the UK will reach a record 42 million international visitors annually by 2020, but can they get them beyond London? 

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