Millions to lure back US visitors

Tourism bosses are hoping benefits from a multimillion campaign launched in London will spin off to Wales after the industry was affected by terrorist attacks in the US.

Tourism minister and Pontypridd MP Kim Howells helped launch the £5m UKOK programme on Wednesday to fill Britain’s £2bn gap left by stay-away American visitors.

With the countryside forming a central plank of the global publicity attack, the Wales Tourist Board said Welsh enterprises, also hit by 2001’s foot-and-mouth epidemic, could find some solace.

The annual figure of 152,000 US visitors to Wales was slashed after many Americans became afraid of flying.

UKOK comes as the board gears up for is latest international television campaign, set to promote adventure holidays in Wales.

Kicking off the scheme developed by the British Tuorist Authority, UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell told BBC Wales: “The message today is ‘come to Britain’ – there are great places to visit in Wales, England and Scotland and Ireland.”

Her initiative will also target other prime overseas markets including Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Earlier in January, a report from the Welsh Assembly concluded foot-and-mouth cost the Welsh tourism industry £140m – between 0.5% and 0.7% of Welsh GDP.

The Wales Tourist Board, however, put the losses at £280m.

The assembly already pledged £108m to some regions in 2001 to counter the effects, with some businesses going bust and many feeling the pinch.

Largely rural Powys was particularly badly affected.

The number of US visitors to the UK in October 2001 fell to 103,000 from the previous year’s 169,000, a spokesperson told BBC News Online.

Marketing effort

Marketing director Roger Pride said: “The Wales Tourist Board welcomes BTA’s £5m global marketing campaign, and sees it as a vital part of an integrated strategy for marketing Wales overseas.

“Many rural tourism businesses in Wales were closed completely for many months last year and we are delighted therefore to see that one of the pillars of the campaign is the countryside.

“We look forward to seeing real improvements in overseas tourism business to Wales, in particular to rural areas, as a result of this campaign.

“It is vital that we engender confidence in the Britain brand whilst we promote Wales as a distinct destination under this umbrella.

UKOK comes as the Welsh board prepares for its latest televised marketing campaign – the first launch of the UK’s regional boards.

Wales will be pitched as a non-London, “legendary,” safe destination by the adverts, which promote the country as a place for adventurous, all-round holiday experiences.

Mr Pride said that campaign – to be rolled out in the next four weeks – will benefit from a threefold increase in the board’s marketing budget to £5m in 2003.