Britain eyes a larger slice of the Middle East

Balcombe … GCC-centric ideas

Earlier this year, Britain’s national tourism agency VisitBritain launched a new marketing campaign in the GCC to boost tourism to Britain. The ‘I Travel For…’ digital marketing campaign uses short-films and story-telling to shine the spotlight on unexpected experiences and less-explored destinations in Britain, alongside its globally renowned and iconic landmarks and attractions.

‘I Travel For…’ is part of the UK Government’s global GREAT Britain campaign, which showcases the very best of what Britain has to offer as a place to visit, study and do business. Sally Balcombe, VisitBritain/VisitEngland, CEO, shares insights on ‘I Travel For…’ digital marketing campaign launched earlier this year with TTN’s Kim Thomson.


What is the strategy behind the new ‘I Travel For…’ campaign?

The strategy is to say to people you think you know Britain, but actually we have so much more for you. We are trying to say whatever you are interested in, whatever your passion is, whatever you want to do, we have got something for you. The strategy is trying to highlight some of the unusual things in Britain. We understand that people don’t travel to tick boxes, they travel because that is important to them. So, this is about turning it over to the customer. What does the customer want… how can we help deliver a whole range of experiences, and then behind that the strategy is also to get people to explore the whole of the UK.


How does this translate into the Middle East market?

London will never ever be less than really important to us, but we also want people to explore other areas. That does not mean we are saying we suddenly expect the GCC market should go hiking in the Peak District, as that maybe a step too far. We know that the Middle Eastern travellers are more London-centric than almost anywhere else. 

A good example of this is that we have designed, a product for the GCC markets, which is all about horse racing. We know that it is a passion point in the Middle East particularly, royal race meetings. People know about Royal Ascot, they may know also know Royal York, but probably the surprising one is Chester. This is a royal race course, a small one, but beautiful, with very easy access from the Middle East when flying direct into Manchester. 

For the Arab market, we will still be focusing on luxury. One of the key messages for us for this market is that luxury is not only London. We have strong partnerships with Etihad Airways and Etihad Airways have big ties to Manchester with Manchester City football club.   And with this we can build on the interest in premiership football. 

Another option appealing to the GCC would be day trips out of London. A train trip from Marylebone, one of London’s main train stations that runs to Oxfordshire, followed by a visit to Blenheim Palace, a beautiful English country house, for the day. We understand they may still want to stay in London but just want to show that it easy to explore a bit more.  


Who do you target when you market into the Middle East/GCC?

In Saudi Arabia there is a rise in middle class, lots of them are going to other places, places like I dare say Turkey and we would like them to come to Britain. So, we understand there is a whole market of new customers and we want to persuade them to come to Britain. We also understand that there are a lot of markets, a lot of GCC nationals who own property in the UK or have been many times and we want to say to them try something new. It’s not an either-or campaign. It is a campaign recognising that there is something for the new traveller but also explore something new for the existing experienced traveller

We also want to recognise two other sectors, the business travel sectors and the non-local sectors - the expatriates. A lot do come back home, but we understand they also have a choice. We want them to come back regularly, they may not be British expats, so we recognise that and know we need to talk to this market segment as well. That will help us get the exploration, expats will go on for the whole of Britain.