What is Taking England to the World?

Bryn Jones, our Travel Trade & Exhibitions Manager, attended a VisitEngland’s workshop in Portsmouth which focused on developing and promoting products to international markets.

Whilst the majority of visitors to the Isle of Wight originate from areas of England within 5 hours drive, with many coming from the south coast, the Midlands and London, there’s an important and valuable number of visitors who come from further afield. The Island has much to offer the overseas visitor – the combination of coast, countryside and rich history with opportunity to relax walk or cycle or participate in our calendar events – all in a compact Island that’s easily accessible from London, major airports and ports. International markets are a largely an untapped opportunity for Island tourism businesses. In the UK generally around 90% of SMEs only focus on domestic markets, whilst inbound tourism accounts for 32.7 million visits to England.

With such potential it’s a great to learn how accommodation providers, attraction, transport and activity operators can work with VisitEngland, VisitBritain and the travel trade to gain a foothold in some of the key countries such as our near neighbours in Europe, America or Australia, or emerging markets such as India, Japan or China. The Discover England Fund aims to deliver bookable tourism products that respond to market opportunities and consumer needs. The workshop is accompanied by a inbound tourism toolkit – a value resource that you can get online or in a handy manual available from VisitEngland.

Marketing your product to overseas markets is a longer-term investment. The results won’t happen overnight. It is though, an opportunity to connect with a wider audience – often one that spends much more than those on a staycation from Britain.

How – and why – could they come to you?

Our potential visitors take as their inspiration what they consume in the media, but also social media – don’t underestimate the power of a stunning image on Instagram or great reviews on TripAdvisor. Different overseas markets have varying traits and habits. Short haul markets often travel independently, book late and take short breaks, long-haul markets plan well ahead, often do multi-destination holidays. Emerging markets, such as Indians and the Chinese often travel as part of a group on their first visit. Fully independent travellers (FIT) prioritise freedom. They plan some activities in advance but mostly have a skeleton package. They look for value and experiences. Those who travel in a group plan well in advance. Business travellers often have a high per head spend, whilst those visiting friends and relatives or who come to the UK to study are important segments. Special interest and luxury sub-segments have their own needs. VisitEngland segment audiences and use such terms as buzzseekers, explorers, adventurers, sightseers and culture buffs – all with their distinctive traits.

Pitfalls – and some ways to avoid them

Businesses must be mindful of cultural considerations when marketing to overseas audiences. Religion, politics, food and diets, the pace of visit, punctuality, timing, language, sensitivities, superstition all play a part. For example, you can’t promote gambling in China and numbers 4 and 13 are considered unlucky. Visitors may have vegetarian, Halal and Kosher diets, or have different attitudes to nudity and alcohol. Far East visitors may prefer a faster pace, whilst those from India want to go at their own pace. Germans require punctuality, the Spanish eat later, the Chinese eat together in one sitting. All generalisation but still useful guidelines. Essential notices such as safety messages need to be multi-lingual, but businesses could seek helpful advice from local colleges and language schools to help with translations. There’s a wealth of research and information on visitbritain.org about each country’s culture and uniqueness.

Worldwide tourism is a very competitive marketplace. Always think about what’s unique about your particular business. On your website, or copy showcase how close you are to London or major airports. Bundle your offering with others if they are aimed at the same market – to make a visit more worthwhile.

The image shows people seated at circular tables as part of a seminar at Portsmouth Guidlhall
Taking England to the World seminar in Portsmouth

What can you do?

So how can you work with the travel trade to grow your business, or extend your global footprint? The workshop looked at the travel distribution system. It’s a worlds of agents – such as retail agents, tour operators, online travel agents (OTAs), online ticket agents, aggregators such as global distribution systems (GDS), destination management companies (DMC), wholesalers and coach operators. What’s worth considering is how your business needs to be mindful of building in commission rates or group discounts when setting your net or gross rates. B2B platforms, such as VisitBritain’s new TXGB require a commission of 2.5% above the commission of the companies you choose to work with. Your fixed costs, combined with variable costs and your profit margin make up your net rate, whilst adding the cost of distribution gives the gross or retail rate. You decide which distribution channel you want and manage which work best for your business. An example would be to sell direct, via a retail agent (typically at 10%), online (typically 15%), wholesaler (typically 20%) or international tour operators (with maybe a 20% commission). Mixing the way you do business can lead to improved volumes and yield – and not having ‘your eggs in one basket.’ Working with a tour operator can mean you don’t have the marketing costs associated with promoting your business direct, but you do need to pay them commission. It can be complicated, but it can lead to being on the itineraries of hundreds of extra visitors each year.

Attending trade shows is one of the best ways of contacting the travel trade. An alternative is to have external representative or going on a sales mission or doing sales calls. Whichever route you decide you must have a well-honed ‘elevator pitch’ – why should an operator choose you rather than any other business or destination. A word of warning though, our tutors for the day Scott Grime and Robin Tjolle emphasised how it’s a long game – you have to attend shows for at least two or three years to make an impression and to establish contacts and good working relationships – so don’t expect an immediate return on your investment.

Our workshop ended with a presentation from Google Digital Garage with tips and hints on search engine optimisation, analytics and adwords. There’s a physical ‘Google Digital Garage’ in Portsmouth offering free advice, and tools to test website, keyword popularity and trends are online. Try g.co./searchconsole or g.co/testmysite to gain some inside on how well your website is doing.

Stay in touch with Visit Isle of Wight

Visit Isle of Wight is here to help you. We’re representing Island businesses at travel trade shows and fairs and promoting the Island through Discover England Fund England’s Coast, a Tourism South East Near Europe campaign, and UK Inbound. We’re engaging with coach operators and tour operators on your behalf. We ask you to engage with us in return. Ensure we get to know all there is to know about your business and your product and talk to us about reaching overseas visitors – whether you’re interested in groups or individual tourists. Together we can take the England (and the Isle of Wight) to the world!

Browse the Taking England to the World toolkit online at https://www.visitbritain.org/business-advice/attract-international-visitors/inbound-toolkit