The tourist board's chief executive, Tom Wright, said: 'Britain has an image that doesn't reflect its brand. The country isn't all Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens. We will use London 2012 to turn up the volume on the UK's contemporary side, as well as promote its heritage.'
The UK's official visitor organisation has set up a 'Welcome to Britain' taskforce, which is working alongside the hospitality industry and organisations including the Border Agencies, BAA, and the London Development Authority (LDA). The latter is already piloting a team of 'Welcome Ambassadors', who are patrolling London's streets.
'The importance of welcome has always been high on our agenda,' added Wright. 'We began looking at it after the foot-and-mouth outbreak and re-addressed it after 9/11. London 2012 will spearhead a major change in the welcome we give.'
According to Wright, following its hosting of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Germany's image improved significantly after it ran a 'nationwide service and friendliness campaign'.
VisitBritain will also promote the nation's quality of product and service.
'We are not a cheap destination, so we have to flag up quality and value for money,' said Sandie Dawe, director of strategy and communications at VisitBritain. 'London 2012 will also make us relevant, and we will attract visitors who don't care about UK tradition and heritage.'
VisitBritain will also use the 2012 Olympic Games to attract younger visitors through the promotion of the country as a destination for sport. On average, visitors in the 16- to 24-year-old age group stay 13 nights a year in the UK and spend £521 on each visit.
'Youth visitors become big-spending visitors. We will target them for future economic benefit,' said Wright.
According to the tourist board, the 40-plus age group accounts for the biggest proportion of UK tourism, and more than a fifth (22%) of potential visitors are more likely to visit Britain in the next four years because of the London 2012 Olympics.
Data file: UK tourism
- More than 3.8m 16- to 24-year-olds visited the UK in 2007, contributing more than £2bn to the economy.
- 27% of visitors who play sport are under 25.
- 16- to 24-year-olds account- for 11.7% of visits to the UK and 12.5% of visitor spending.
- France and the US have the highest number of tourists visiting the UK.
- Source: VisitBritain