London & Partners criticised for new trade strategy

London & Partners has blamed “limited resources” for shifting its travel trade activity away from the domestic sector to markets in China, India and the Gulf.

The London mayor’s promotional agency says on its website, under the ‘travel trade’ section that it has “a new strategy to ensure London remains a leading world city”.

It states: “We are now focusing our funding and activity in areas where we can have the most impact, and away from activities which are well served by existing providers.

“We will continue working with our partners and industry bodies to promote London and to ensure it remains the best city in the world to visit, study and invest in.

“Our travel trade activity this year and next will solely focus on working with travel agents to attract tourists from the important and growing markets of China, India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).”

It adds: “We are launching a programme of new ‘Experience England’ itineraries, combining trips to London with stays in Manchester or Birmingham. This work is part-funded by VisitBritain’s Discover England Fund and we work in partnership with Marketing Manchester and West Midlands Growth Company.”

Laura Citron (pictured), chief executive of London & Partners, commented: “Travel trade is an important part of London’s tourism economy and we are confident that the industry is well supported by not only our Discover England Fund project, but also through the outstanding support VisitBritain and our partners and stakeholders provide.

“Our new strategy will ensure that the London tourism economy goes from strength to strength, with the city ultimately leading the way as one of the most diverse and celebrated destinations in the world.

“To achieve this with limited resources, we need to be more targeted and focus on markets that will yield the biggest opportunities and where we can build on common messages that align across all of our audiences.”

However, key domestic trade figures were concerned that the UK market is being neglected.

Stuart Render, of specialist coach tourism consultancy Stuart Render Tourism, said: “It is understandable that London & Partners wishes to focus on specific overseas markets to attract more visitors to the capital.

“However, London continues to present a number of challenges for domestic coach operators bringing groups into the capital, notably coach parking and convenient drop-off and pick-up points.

“It is to be hoped that London & Partners will continue to work closely with the UK travel trade, and with Transport for London and the London boroughs in particular, to make it as easy as possible to visit the capital.”

Steve Reed, managing director of Steve Reed Tourism Ltd, commented: “While it is laudable and makes sense to marshal your resources to anticipate and target important overseas markets, in my view, it is ill advised to discard what in effect are vital core markets.

“The UK domestic travel trade has at times been regarded as something of a Cinderella service by certain national and indeed regional tourism bodies. And here it appears is an example when one of the country’s main – if not the main – coach tourism destinations is going to miss the ball.”