Agents for change

Expert Opinion

As I sit in our London office contemplating a big pre-Olympic year for our capital, tourism board Visit London has had to fight for its very existence, with the Mayor of London Boris Johnson having to appeal direct to government for its funding to continue.

In the run up to Britain’s big Olympic year, the main champion for promoting business visits to the UK capital, Visit London, has been lumped in with Think London and Study London, two cultural and education agencies also funded by the now abolished regional development agencies, and had its funding cut significantly to £14m a year.

The new, now private, agency, with the working title Promote London is to be chaired by Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas.

The title Promote London, at first hearing, also seems to be a step backwards from the ‘Visit’ branding that has spread so successfully around the UK and even abroad (The Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau has recently rebranded as Visit Orlando).

It is embarrassing that we should be taking crumbs for comfort in the news that this important agency continues to exsit at a time when any country with its eyes on the big event prizes and bigger international picture would be increasing the reach of its business marketing arm, particularly in a pre-Olympic year.

One can see how the big thinking and big plans of Russia and Qatar won out over the England bid for the FIFA World Cup. There was plenty of legacy vision, plans to invest big in infrastructure and a lot of respect for competitive bidders, all absent from the London bid, however great the technical merits were trumpeted by the bid team.

Maybe London should consider a bid for the Winter Olympics? After all, Heathrow Airport has been doubling as the biggest ice rink in the country for several days now.

Being one of those people who spent many hours trying to get to EIBTM in Barcelona recently as snow gripped many of our airports; then getting a double whammy of a Spanish air traffic controller strike grounding me in Barcelona for an ‘extension’, transport infrastructure is another topic for heated debate here.

Let us hope the New Year brings new resolution from our politicians to back our industry with the tools to do our work. We know what the economic multiplier of business tourism and conferences adds up to, we just need the equipment to do our job.

– Paul Colston, Managing Editor