Written evidence submitted by the Latin American Travel Association

 

 

 

Submission from the Latin American Travel Association to the DCMS Select Committee inquiry Promoting Britain Abroad, 5th January 2022.

 

 

The Latin American Travel Association is a trade body for businesses in the UK to Latin American tourism sector, with members in the UK, Europe and Latin America that include UK-based tour operators and travel agents, airlines, and Latin American operators and accommodation providers.

 

You may be wondering why a trade body that deals exclusively in UK-outbound tourism is interested in promoting Britain abroad as a tourism destination for overseas visitors. The answer is simple – inbound and outbound tourism are two sides of the same coin, and we rely on each other in two critical areas: connectivity and infrastructure.

 

Airlines will only run routes that have sufficient demand to be financially viable, and that invariably requires two-way traffic – Brits travelling abroad and overseas residents coming to the UK. Without that flow in both directions, we just don’t have the flight availability that our sector needs to flourish.

 

Inbound and outbound tourism rely on the same infrastructure at point of entry and departure. Airports, international rail, and maritime ports rely on a certain level of passenger movements to be viable, and that requires tourism in both directions.

 

If inbound tourism does not recover quickly, the outbound sector will suffer, and vice-versa, as will the UK economy:

 

Key statistics on outbound tourism (pre-Covid)

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: ABTA, Driving Growth: the economic value of outbound travel 2019; International passenger survey; The Business Travel Association

 

 

Current challenges

 

There is no question that the Covid pandemic has caused many problems to tourism, but there are some key issues that are seeing the UK fall behind its key competitors in Europe:

 

Outside of Covid, we see additional problems arising as a result of Brexit:

 

 

Re-establishing the UK as a destination for overseas tourists

 

There are any number of ways to promote tourism, but they are all worthless without looking at the key principles of what makes one destination more attractive than another – at the moment, those are cost and ease. The UK is not currently an attractive proposition for overseas tourists for the reasons mentioned above. Unless these are addressed, no amount of promotional activity will make any sort of significant difference.

 

Tourism to the UK is generally driven by our heritage, visiting the likes of Buckingham Palace, or the Lake District. That type of tourism does not have any sort of urgency attached – those landmarks will be there to visit at any time, so it is easy for a potential visitor to the UK to postpone until there is a more ‘welcoming’ environment and, in the short term, choose a destination that is less onerous to visit.

 

There is no doubt that the UK economy is already suffering the impact of a lack of tourism, and that without a significant change during 2022 we will see an impact across many sectors: retail; hospitality; DMCs; attractions; culture and heritage; transport; catering; etc. Tourism’s economic reach is far and wide, however there is some doubt as to whether the UK Government is motivated to give these sectors specific consideration and, rather, looks only at the equation of ‘at risk’ jobs compared to job vacancies and is satisfied that there are jobs available for people that lose their current role. However, that would rather rely on the notion that a tourism professional would be just as happy were they driving an HGV, for example.

 

Although colleagues from the inbound market will be better placed than I am to suggest exactly what will attract tourists, it is notable that the tourism boards that I work with across Latin America have continued to promote themselves during the pandemic, with activity based on ‘we’re ready and waiting for when travel resumes’ – as far as I am aware the UK has not done anything similar, and that will have an impact as we see foreign tourists selecting holiday destinations.

 

 

The UK as a ‘soft-power superpower’

 

This phrase probably sums up the problem more succinctly than anything else – the abiding notion that the UK is attractive simply because it is the UK. In a global tourism marketplace, that just isn’t true. There are so many tourism options and such good global connectivity (Covid notwithstanding) that tourists are spoilt for choice.

 

The UK does, undoubtedly, have an excellent tourism proposition, but we have to compete against other excellent propositions. We need to dispel the notion that people will come just because we are here, and actually go and find inbound tourism markets.

 

 

Leveraging Brexit to help tourism

 

The simple answer to how we can use Brexit to help tourism is to make sure we are an easier and more attractive destination than our EU neighbours! At the moment we are not. The best example is the withdrawal of attractive tax-free shopping, which is just shooting ourselves in the foot.

 

 

Lack of a tourism ministry

 

The UK is pretty much unique in not having a proper Tourism Ministry and dedicated Minister for Tourism. Although Nigel Huddleston MP has tourism as part of his portfolio, that also includes Sport and Heritage.

 

The UK needs a dedicated minister for the tourism sector, working across inbound and outbound sectors, with a team of tourism professionals. This the norm in most countries, and the fact that the UK does not have a similar setup is a key part of the problems that our sector comes up against. During the Covid pandemic, we have very much been an orphan sector, with nobody really wanting to take responsibility for us. Our activities do cross Departments of State, with DCMS, BEIS, FCDO, Home Office, and DfT all impacting us to some extent, and we need a dedicated representative to act as the interface between the industry and Government.

 

 

I would be pleased to share any further insights that you feel would be of benefit to your inquiry. If you would like clarification on any of the points herein, please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

Regards,

 

Danny Callaghan

LATA CEO