Tourism chiefs bid to cash in on 2012 Games

Facebook, Twitter and a host of other social networking sites and blogs will be at the heart of the marketing campaign to tempt tourists to come to Britain ahead of the London 2012 Games, it was announced today.

VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, is focusing on the themes - dynamic, classic, luxury, the youth generation and the gay and lesbian community - in its first global three-year marketing strategy up to 2013.

With hosting the Games estimated to be worth £2.1 billion to the tourism industry in the decade to 2017, the aim is to "outsmart rather than outspend our competitors", according to VisitBritain's marketing director Laurence Bresh.

The tourism value after the Games is estimated to be £1.27 billion, including £400m for areas outside London, according to VisitBritain.

Mr Bresh said: "To capitalise on the potential tourism gains of hosting the 2012 Games in Britain we must be smarter.

"We must be smarter with our communications, utilising social media and a refreshed brand embracing the Olympics and our welcome to Britain agenda."

It is hoped the social networking sites and blogs will make potential tourists feel an affinity towards British society.

VisitBritain is to send out information to travel websites, blogs and other places where tourists go to help plan their trips.

In 2008 nearly 32 million visitors came to Britain and spent £16.3 billion.

But more than 180 tourism leaders, meeting at a central London seminar today, will be warned that this tourism legacy will not just drop into their laps.

Work still needs to be done to promote Britain overseas and boost its position as a tourism destination.

Luckily, hosting the London 2012 Games provides an "unprecedented opportunity" to accelerate improvements in welcome, service, quality, accessibility and sustainability, according to a VisitBritain spokesman.

It could also provide a platform from which to attract other cultural, business and sporting events.

There will be direct advertising to customers and links created with the media, the travel industry and corporate partners to try to sell Britain as a place to visit for sport, culture and heritage.

Within weeks the Winter Olympic and Paralympic torches will be extinguished in Vancouver and then Games sponsors, media and all the national Olympic and Paralympic Committees will start to focus their full attention on Britain.

Culture and Tourism Minister Margaret Hodge said: "We are now less than three years away from the Games themselves, but we need to have a longer term vision than that. We must focus on the next decade and the potential legacy from 2012.

"Everyone agrees that there are many fantastic tourism and hospitality offerings in every corner of Britain, and we need to ensure that all our tourism businesses, in every region, grasp the opportunities and reap the benefits from 2012."

Visit London's chief executive Sally Chatterjee described the London Games as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the tourism industry to showcase its product to the world and raise standards at the same time".