VisitBritain seeks retail partner to boost profile

LONDON - National tourism body VisitBritain is looking to partner a major retailer as part of its strategy to raise its profile and stretch its limited marketing budget.

Michael Bedingfield, director of England marketing at VisitBritain, is leading the search, which is part of a plan to develop commercial ties.

The marketing body already has a partnership with Sony Pictures, which it used to promote the release of 'The Da Vinci Code'. The Scottish Tourist Board and French tourism organisation Maison de la France also partnered with the film.

Bedingfield said he was keen to continue promoting film-related tourism, following the success of the Sony tie-up.

The hunt for a retail partner comes at a key time for the tourism industry, which is keen to ensure that the whole of Britain benefits from the exposure of the London 2012 Olympics .

The government has said the games could boost the UK's tourism revenue by up to 25%.

Separately, Enjoy England is launching a campaign next month to encourage people to visit locations featured in their favourite books. The English tourism board has produced 20,000 A1 maps to promote the six-month 'Storybook England' campaign. The posters depict the locations featured in a range of books, including the Harry Potter series.

They will be available in branches of Starbucks, while selected books featuring in the campaign will go on sale in Tesco.

The campaign continues VisitBritain's strategy of focusing on families.

The UK experienced a 9% upsurge in overseas visitors last year, resulting in an 8% increase in spending to £14.25bn. Domestic tourism was worth £22.7bn last year.

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