Last updated: 05:00 PM ET, Wed December 09 2015

Why Visitors Are Feeling More Welcome in Britain

Destination & Tourism | Janeen Christoff | December 09, 2015

Why Visitors Are Feeling More Welcome in Britain

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

More than almost anything else, feeling welcome matters when you arrive in a new country. Great Britain knows this, and has found tremendous success making that feeling the cornerstone of its tourism message.

A welcoming experience is also one of the key aggregators of whether or not visitors returning home will recommend a destination to friends and family. In Britain, the first nine months of 2015 have broken previous records for inbound tourism numbers, with more than 27 million visits from January to September. This represents a 3 percent increase compared to the same period last year, and a study shows that the increase can likely be traced to visitors feeling more welcomed in Britain.

According to a recent survey by national tourism agency VisitBritain, the percentage of international visitors who said they felt extremely welcome in Britain has more than doubled in the last five years. The "Britain’s welcome to overseas visitors" report, based on a survey of more than 5,000 visitors as they departed Britain, found that 42 percent said they felt extremely welcome, compared to 30 percent in 2012 and 19 percent in 2009.

Overall, 89 percent of visitors surveyed said they felt extremely or very welcome in Britain. Of those, 93 percent said they would also be extremely or very likely to recommend visiting Britain to family and friends. Danes and Canadians felt the most welcome according to the survey, followed by visitors from Sweden, India and the USA.

Ways Britain Is Enhancing Its Visitor Welcome

In July, Prime Minister David Cameron set forth a five-point plan to boost tourism, which includes giving visitors a “GREAT welcome.”

One example of how Britain is accomplishing this is its pilot scheme to reimburse the visa fee to Chinese visitors who book tours of at least eight days, at least four of which are spent outside London.

Another factor, also focused on Chinese visitors, is VisitBritain’s GREAT China Welcome program that more than 300 businesses across the U.K. have signed up for since its launch in 2013.

Easy-to-use public transportation is another factor influencing how welcome visitors feel. This has prompted VisitBritain to launch an improved OysterCard, which is a card used for transportation services all around the city of London and can be paid for in advance and received before arriving in the country. From January of next year, the card will also cover journeys between Gatwick Airport and London, meaning that even more tourists can benefit from pay-as-you-go travel the moment they step off the plane.

Five-Point Plan

As part of the five-point plan announced by Cameron in July, there are four other initiatives that are aimed at boosting Britain’s tourism market share.

A better-coordinated tourism sector: Britain is working to get more local attractions and tourism organizations to collaborate to grow the sector for everyone not competing.

Skills and jobs: Driving and retaining talent in the sector to encourage growth.

Common sense regulation: Reforming regulation sensibly to drive competition and improve the tourism offer for visitors.

Transportation: Forging innovative links between the transport and tourism sectors to help visitors travel outside of the capital.

Other initiatives include a £1 million "Rail for Tourism innovation" competition, which will call for ideas to transform the travel experience for visitors to the U.K. and make exploring the U.K. by rail more attractive to tourists. The competition will be run by the RSSB’s Future Railways Programme, and winners will receive funding to develop their ideas and carry out trials.

For more information on England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales

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