British Tourism Mailings Say UK's OK

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Scarred by foot-and-mouth disease and travel fears after Sept. 11, Britain is using direct marketing to prop up its flagging tourism market.


The government-funded British Tourist Authority has mailed 200,000 packages as part of a "UK OK" campaign, targeting Britons to invite friends and family to visit Britain. About 500,000 packages will be sent by year's end.


"Historically, their marketing activity has been focused on international tourists. This is the first time we targeted what we call advocates, people that are residents of the UK who can really persuade their friends and relatives to come over to the UK," said Alistair Daly, client partner at Euro RSCG Circle, a London interactive agency assisting with the campaign.


In the package are brochures, postcards and a Britain CD produced by Euro RSCG Circle. Recipients are asked to use the postcards to nominate four friends or relatives overseas to win them free flights and accommodation during their visit.


As part of an online "member get member" effort, the agency also created online greeting cards on the official site at www.visitbritain.com/uk.


By sending these online cards, users can enter nominations online for the same competition. This will boost the BTA's database with enhanced consumer profiles. It also will result in more targeted promotions and offers. Besides, it starts a dialogue with the local tourism market.


Eighty percent of the names for this campaign were pulled from BTA's inhouse database, with the rest rented from outside lists. Consumers on the BTA database included prospects that called for more information and registrants on visitbritain.com, a site recently revamped by Euro RSCG Circle to encompass the UK OK campaign.


Part of the targeted audience for the mailings includes some of the BTA's 50,000 employees.


"The key thing was to get people to recommend friends and family who would be interested in coming to Britain," Daly said.


Last year, 23.4 million people visited Britain, spending $16 billion, a drop of 14 percent on the previous year's figure.


"The BTA is confident that this campaign will help recover these losses," Daly said.


Begun in late January, UK OK focuses on the Queen's Golden Jubilee to celebrate 50 years on the throne, the Commonwealth Games and prime attractions in Britain's countryside and cities. It also will celebrate the nation's heritage.


The BTA has partnered with travel marketers like British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways, American Airlines and a range of hotel chains.


Though the campaign targets the United States and Canada, the emphasis is on key European markets like France, Ireland, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.


"The idea was that Europe was where the easy pickings were," Daly said. "They're more likely to make the trip, and less planning [is] involved."


Referring to travel by car, sea or train, Daly said, "UK residents have a lot of friends, relatives and family in Europe. They need not fly in. There's other ways to get to Britain from Europe as well."


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