LONDON: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the achievements of the country’s tourism industry in a welcome message to WTM London, the world’s largest travel trade event taking place since Monday, November 4 at ExCeL London.
Johnson spoke of the UK’s success story in the 10 years since he first opened the event, when he was then Mayor of London. Since then, he said, tourism had boomed “from Skye to Skegness, from Brecon Beacons to Bognor”.
Johnson added: “Our capital city London has become the number one tourist destination in the world. The British Museum attracts more visitors than one European country I am too diplomatic to identify.”
Following Johnson’s message to the WTM Leaders’ Lunch, Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, took to the stage.
She highlighted tourism’s £68 billion contribution to the UK economy. The industry, she said, accounted for 1.6 million jobs and last year, the UK attracted 38 million visitors who spent £22.7 billion.
Morgan acknowledged Brexit was an issue for the industry. She told the audience: “We are going to be leaving the European Union, but we do not want to put up borders that keep people in or out. We want to make it as frictionless as possible to visit – EEAA or Swiss nationals will not need a visa.”
WTM London’s Headline partner Sri Lanka took to the stage during the event outlining its objective to ‘build back better’ six months after the terror attacks that decimated its tourism industry.
Manisha Gunasekera, High Commissioner – Sri Lanka High Commission in London, said: “Exactly one year ago, at WTM, we launched ‘So Sri Lanka’, our brand identity, which has now become so much identified with Sri Lanka.”
She added: “The message emanating from Sri Lanka is that it’s business as usual. We’re resilient, united and we have made a steady recovery.”
Also speaking to an extremely crowded room at WTM London, Greek National Tourism Organisations, Minister of Tourism Harry Theoharis explained their 10-year plan for tourism, which embraces sustainability, the destination announced at WTM today.
Theoharis explained: “Our vision is Greece as a full experience as we’ve never seen before… Greece is more than the sun and sea, the beach and ancient monuments.”
He said quality, sustainability and authenticity were to be the cornerstones of the new plan, with an ultimate ambition to make Greece “one of the top global sustainable destinations.”
He added: “It’s about increasing the ceiling
but also trying to widen the shoulder seasons and tourism destinations.”