The new BTA head plans on marketing the UK without a rebrand.
As Tom Wright, the new British Tourist Authority (BTA) chief executive, was about to announce his plans for marketing the UK abroad last week, he appeared to be hit with a bombshell.
Just hours before Wright's presentation, culture secretary Tessa Jowell revealed that she was merging the BTA with the English Tourism Council.
A spokeswoman for the BTA claims the news came 'out of the blue'.
Fortunately for Wright however, the merger endorses rather than scuppers his new approach, which relies on a 'brand architecture' marketing strategy.
He has been made chief executive of the combined body and therefore becomes the ultimate marketer for both the UK and England brands for the next three years at least.
Wright comes from a marketing background having held senior executive roles at brands including Saga and Center Parcs.
He made it very clear at the press conference that he was 'not rebranding the UK again' but putting in place a disciplined approach to addressing the complex task of communicating the best aspects of these islands to diverse audiences.
He is trying to avoid the backlash that followed the BTA's 'Cool Britannia' approach in the mid-90s and the ridicule heaped on the pounds 5m 'UK OK' campaign, which more recently attempted to reassure foreign visitors about foot and mouth.
'It's not about straplines, but purely understanding the brands we have,' says Wright.
'We want a stronger voice for UK tourism and a more coherent marketing agenda that ensures England, Scotland and Wales develop separate brand positions. The problem at the moment is that visitors often don't make it beyond London.'
And that's only part of the challenge that Wright faces. A combination of foot and mouth disease and the terrorist attacks of last year devastated inbound tourism in 2001.
The number of visitors fell by 9% on 2000 to 22.8 million and spending dropped by 12% to pounds 11.3bn.
Despite a gradual recovery since, the UK has considerable work to do before it can push visitor levels back up to those of 2000 and beyond.
'The UK's position in some of its core markets is not as strong as some of its competitors and the global tourism market is changing,' concedes the BTA's annual report, published this week. …