Britain kicks off international tourism drive ahead of games

Britain has kicked off a global advertising campaign as the international buildup to the 2012 Olympic Games in London continues.

The advert, which is to be screened around the world, aims to boost the country's reputation as a destination ahead of next year, when the country will host both the Olympic Games and the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

It features several recognizable faces from the country, including Dame Judi Dench, Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel, actor Rupert Everett and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, all of whom extend a "personal" invitation to visitors.

Oliver, perhaps recruited to counter Britain's notorious reputation for poor food, tells potential visitors:

"The food can be incredible – great British food is some of the best in the world. We are a magpie culture – we take the world’s best bits."

VisitBritain, the tourism agency behind the campaign, also announced June 16 that it will be the first advertising for BBC Worldwide when it launches an international version of the BBC iPlayer, set to screen popular international shows such as Top Gear and Doctor Who.

It will be first time in ten years that viewers around the world see a television advert for Britain, which hopes to attract four million overseas visitors over the next four years, spurred by the recent royal wedding, the Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

In recent weeks, several other countries have debuted major tourism pushes, with mixed results.

Last week, Tunisia launched a major advertising push using billboards in London and Paris, attempting to drive awareness and lighten the mood following the historic events earlier this year, in which several hundred people were killed.

The adverts featured slogans including, "They say Tunisia is nothing but ruins" and a picture of a woman receiving a massage next to text explaining "They say that in Tunisia some people receive heavy-handed treatment."

The ads proved controversial, although the agency behind the campaign insisted it was designed to show that things had changed and lure visitors back to the country, where tourism forms a significant part of the income.

Malaysia also found itself embroiled in controversy last week when it emerged that the government has spent 1.8 million ringgit (€413,000) on developing Facebook pages, with relatively poor results.

However, perhaps some of the negative publicity will pay off for the campaign - when the story broke, the main page boasted around 20,000 fans, a number which has more than doubled following extensive publicity to over 40,000.

See the VisitBritain campaign at http://www.visitbritain.com/en/EN

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