Trade is very important to us

In a bid to woo more Indian travellers and getting them to stay longer, VisitBritain is building the capacity and volume, and delivering tailored products to the Indian market. Sally Balcombe, CEO, VisitBritain, says they rely on the Indian travel trade to increase arrivals.

Peden Doma Bhutia from Newcastle

What do you intend to achieve with the Find Your Great Britain campaign that you’ve recently launched in India?

I was there for the launch and it was my maiden visit to India. This was done to send a very clear message to show how important the India market is to us. With this campaign in India, we want to remind the market about the special relationship between us. The Indian market knows us very well, thanks to our shared history and heritage, but this campaign is to explain to people that there is more to this. We are particularly trying to target a younger market. What we have in India is primarily a family market, but now there is an emerging younger market – the buzzseekers. These are people who are working, earning good money and want to explore the country. They might have been to the UK before, but what we want them to do is get into the depth of the country and witness things that are unexpected and surprising. We have exciting things for the younger emerging market.

With a focus on wooing Indian travellers, you cannot ignore the travel trade. How do you intend to work with them for this campaign?

That point about the importance of trade is not lost on us. The Indian travel trade is massively important to us, we understand that this is a market that’s very much organised by tour operators and travel agents. We hope that the trade can utilise and adopt the ‘Find your Great Britain’ campaign and put their own spin on it. A tour operator who specialises in certain things can use this in his own way.

“We will be developing other new products for India. With the Indian economy growing strongly, we want to continue to invest in India as the market is in a very strong place, and we want to give you ideas and opportunities about things to do”

In a first-of-its-kind partnership, three of Britain’s largest cities – London, Manchester and Birmingham, are collaborating on the Experience England initiative to jointly promote themselves in India, China and the GCC countries. Do you plan similar initiatives for other cities?

On the Discover England fund, we are developing new products that are appropriate for that market but that doesn’t mean that some of the products we are developing for other markets cannot be brought to the Indian market. We are saying that you can come into one destination and fly out from the other, so that you explore more. It’s consistent with our campaign of see more, come and explore more and one of the really good ways to do that is, for instance, fly into London and fly out of Manchester and explore everywhere in between. We will be developing other new products for the Indian market that involve not just cities but also rural areas and countryside.

You’ve witnessed a massive growth in inbound arrivals in 2017, despite the instability of Pound. What is it that you are doing right and how do you plan to sustain it?

We’ve been working very well with partners in India. We have worked with Cox & Kings and showcased new products and opportunities to show travellers that there’s much to do in the UK. We also have a big partnership with Etihad Airlines and are working with them to think about ways to do different things. A lot of what we’ve been doing to drive success, has been working with partners who know and understand the market.

There is a projected estimate of about 90% growth in Indian arrivals by 2025, with spends going up by 180%. How do you plan to achieve it?

Those growth figures come on the back of the growth that we are seeing so far. Some of it is about route network. There are a lot of Etihad routes as you hub through to come into Britain. We hope to get into some new direct flights into Britain as well, like a direct flight from Manchester to India. Growth comes with capacity and with spend going up. We are trying to encourage the Indian market to stay a bit longer. Average spend goes up if your length of stay increases.

With the opportunity in the future, affluence of the Indian market and the shared heritage, we are looking at opportunities around cricket like the ICC World Cup 2019 that would help fuel this growth. Going by Indians’ preferences, we would also like to build on football, shopping, food and drinks, as they hold immense importance to the Indian customer.

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