Patricia Yates is Director, Strategy and Communications at VisitBritain. Prior to this, Patricia spent 17 years as editor of Holiday Which? as well as writing for The Telegraph, The Times, The Daily Mail and The Daily Express. Patricia studied physics at Oxford University.
“…VisitBritain has changed the language so that tourism is now seen as an export industry generating jobs and strong growth across Britain. We had a record year in 2014, with inbound visits and overseas visitor spending higher than ever…”
Career to date
I’ve been in media and communications for more than 25 years and have worked across the commercial, not-for-profit and consumer association sectors.
At VisitBritain we make sure the appropriate products and experiences are put in front of international customers at the right time when they are booking their holidays. Competition in today’s global tourism market is fierce and Britain needs to be front-of-mind for international travellers if inbound tourism is to continue to contribute to the nation’s economic growth.
The role here interested me as I had experience of the travel industry, liked the idea of having oversight across a global organisation and at the time I took the job we had the prospect of being Olympic hosts.
I still love my job, working with a facts and data base to inform what we do, how we reach our many audiences and ensure opinion formers understand the importance of tourism and what an efficient body VisitBritain is.
Encouraging more overseas visitors to come to Britain
The value of inbound international visits to the economy is £24 billion. Our most valuable market is the USA and although growth was up last year, overall we’ve lost visitors from there in recent years. We’re focused on the need to appeal to new audiences in the US through our marketing, making sure we connect using digital and social media and working with partners to ensure that we are driving people to book.
China is the world’s number one outbound international market and we are working hard to ensure that, in a market where we don’t have the shared history and culture of other markets we are getting Britain on people’s wish list. Most of our visitors – more than 50% – come from Eurozone countries and they travel all over Britain. It is essential that we continue to appeal to these markets especially with the current strength of sterling against the Euro, making us more expensive for European visitors and less competitive than Europe for long haul markets such as China.
Reinforcing our remit
We’ve just come through the Government’s triennial review which assessed whether the function we deliver is still needed and, if it is, are we the best to deliver it in the way we are currently. We came through that process with our remit reinforced.
The case for government intervention has traditionally been market failure but VisitBritain has changed the language so that tourism is now seen as an export industry generating jobs and strong growth across Britain. We had a record year in 2014, with inbound visits and overseas visitor spending higher than ever.
Nature of the relationship between Government and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) and how this works
Part of VisitBritain’s remit is to advise the Government and industry on tourism, especially on issues that affect our global competitiveness as a leading tourism market. We need to do that independently at ‘arms-length’ from the Government. NDPBs allow greater operational independence for bodies performing specialist, technical or commercial functions and which regularly recruit from specialist labour markets. They also allow government access to external skills and expertise, often at lower cost than consultancy or research. The relationship between public bodies and government has come under greater scrutiny in recent years.
Like all NDPBs we undergo intense scrutiny during the Government’s triennial review process and its spending reviews. We are also a key partner in the GREAT campaign, working with Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK Trade & Investment and the British Council to promote Britain as a great place to visit, invest in, study and work.
Promoting the whole of Britain
I am very conscious that our role is to promote all of Britain and we have targets we must meet around our regional spread of activity. Although tourism is devolved we work very closely with national and regional boards and with the private sector to deliver marketing campaigns that promote the experiences and attractions in the nations and regions of Britain. Of course at the moment we are also working on some of the specific funds to promote regions – the South West, The North, Yorkshire and Loch Ness and Inverness.
Business as usual
VisitBritain is going through the Government’s funding round where we are strongly making the case for tourism as a crucial export industry and one which has good growth potential and merits Government investment. It is however business as usual and we continue to run campaigns which inspire international travellers to book holidays and get them out and about across the whole of Britain.