Vishal Bhatia

In an interactive session with Travel And Tour World, Vishal Bhatia, talks about his role as the Country Manager of Visit Britain. He also shares his opinion on the changes in Britain’s present travel scene and the plans to rebuild a sustainable, competitive and accessible industry across the country.

Travel And Tour World: The UK has recently lost its longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II in British history. How has the incident influenced England’s tourism specifically?

Vishal Bhatia: The eyes of the world have been on Britain as millions of us have come together, including international visitors and hundreds of global leaders and dignitaries, to mourn, mark and celebrate the life and historic reign of Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The magnificent pomp and pageantry, set against the backdrop of some of our most iconic sites including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle, have been captured by the world’s media and watched by an estimated global audience of billions.

We know there is huge pent-up demand for travel and our research shows that exploring Britain’s history and heritage is the top motivator for international travellers keen to visit this year. We are inspiring people to book a trip to come and see our world-renowned attractions, our culture, heritage and history for themselves and, as we look ahead to the Coronation of King Charles III, to be part of once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you can only have in Britain.

Britain’s renowned heritage, royal legacy, pomp and pageantry are proven tourism draws. Visit Britain’s latest international consumer research, published in March, shows the draw of Britain’s history and heritage in driving inbound tourism. The chance to explore Britain’s history and heritage was the top motivator for those international travellers keen to visit Britain this year, closely followed by visiting its iconic attractions.

Visit Britain’s research also shows that about 11 million inbound visits to the UK annually include a visit to a castle or historic house, with those visitors spending £9 billion in total on their trips. In 2019, pre-pandemic, the Tower of London was the most visited ‘paid for’ attraction in England with almost three million visitors.

The official celebrations for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s historic  Platinum Jubilee earlier this year also saw Britain’s renowned heritage, royal legacy and pomp and pageantry in the international spotlight, watched by a global audience of hundreds of millions and also showing our hospitality, creativity and warm welcome to the world.

Visit Britain’s research in June also showed that the biggest drivers globally in choosing a destination are that it “offers good value for money” and is “a welcoming place to visit” and, with more than half of people we surveyed earlier this year not yet having made up their minds where to go, we will continue to compete hard to ensure the undecided choose Britain.


Travel And Tour World: Stratford-upon-Avon is one of the UK’s most highlighted tourist attractions being the birthplace of William Shakespeare. The place experienced a noticeable drop in footfall this summer. What, according to you can be the reason behind such a major drop in tourist arrival at Stratford-upon-Avon? Do you have any plans to improve the scene there?

Vishal Bhatia: Many of the attractions and hotels in the area are pleased to offer free admission/hospitality to visitors representing the tourism industry, including Press, Tour Operators and Travel Agents, both Domestic and International.

The Press Pass provides free entry to the bearer and an accompanying person. It can be used only once at each of the attractions listed below. The Pass is to be used during normal opening hours only. The Pass may not be copied and is not transferable. Further proof of identity may be required upon arrival. Please note that the Press Pass does not include an entry on special events or bank holidays, so please check with us before visiting.

Shakespeare’s England also operates a Trade Pass for individuals working in the travel and tourism industry.


Travel And Tour World: Past in the month of June, hundreds of flights to and from the British airports were cancelled which led to holidaymakers facing long queues and delays. So, how has this travel chaos influenced England’s inbound and outbound travel?

Vishal Bhatia: Flight bookings overall to the UK have been showing steady recovery, currently tracking at about three quarters of 2019 levels.

We have also recently, in August, upgraded our inbound tourism forecast for 2022 due to the stronger than expected start to the year.

A key part of tourism’s recovery is having the seat capacity and airline routes operating and we need that seat capacity and route development coming back, which is a key part of our competitive tourism offer to visitors.

We know there is also pent-up demand for travel and, with more than half of people we surveyed earlier this year not yet having made up their minds where to go we are competing hard to ensure the undecided choose Britain.


Travel And Tour World: Please share in details a statistics of the arrival of tourists, accommodation (including overnight stays) and tourists’ expenditure in the hotels of England.

Vishal Bhatia: Every month, the England Occupancy Survey (EOS) measures bedroom and bed space occupancy across the serviced accommodation sector, including mostly hotels, with a very small proportion of serviced apartments and larger B&Bs/guesthouses.

As well as delivering occupancy levels for the country as a whole, results are also available by region, destination type and establishment size.

Data is collected from a panel of participating accommodation businesses who submit data each month.

In the UK, each of the national tourist boards undertakes its own serviced accommodation occupancy survey. The results from these surveys were combined to deliver the UK Occupancy Survey (UKOS). Please note the UKOS summaries stopped in 2021.

In June 2017 a change was made to the occupancy data. The data is now collected using a syndicated panel of more than 3,000 hotels and other accommodation businesses provided by hotel market data and benchmarking company – STR. To allow a meaningful comparison of year on year trends, Visit England and STR have included historical data from STR’s own panel in the reports from June 2017 onwards. The historical data displayed in these reports is not consistent with reports published prior to the June 2017 report.

Inbound tourism is one of the UK’s most valuable export industries, its third largest service export, worth more than £28 billion to the economy in 2019.

At the time of writing, looking at 2022, Visit Britain’s latest forecast, published on Monday 15 August , is for 26.7 million inbound visits to the UK overall this year, 65% of the 2019 level, and overseas visitor spending of £21.6 billion, 76% of 2019. This is an upgrade on our previous forecast, made in February, due to a stronger than expected start to the year. North America has been one of the strongest markets to recover with flight arrivals and bookings to Britain nearing pre-pandemic levels.

Flight bookings overall to the UK have been showing steady recovery, currently tracking at about three quarters of 2019 levels.

The latest official statistics for arrivals to the UK are for January to May this year. The statistics show that there were 8.6 million visits overall to the UK during January to May 2022 with those visitors spending £6.4 billion.


Travel And Tour World: After two years of a grueling pandemic, WTM 2022 is around the corner and the industry players are pulling out all the stops to make it a grand success. What is your take on this issue?

What major areas do you plan to exhibit and promote in this foremost global event WTM 2022?

Vishal Bhatia: Visit Britain is very much looking forward to attending and participating in World Travel Market in November. We are part of the official UK Pavilion as a partner of UK inbound, and will also be attending a number of industry events during the three days. We will be supporting British tourism suppliers to engage with international buyers and tour operators, including from India, to highlight the latest tourism products and experiences. We know there is pent-up demand for travel and working with the international trade, building product knowledge and ensuring they are ready to sell Britain, is crucial to driving bookings and spending. We also want to broaden travel itineraries, encouraging visitors to stay longer, explore further and boost visits across the shoulder seasons, supporting local businesses and economies.


Travel And Tour World: World Tourism Day 2022 has just taken place. What have been the highlights of England’s tourism recovery after being hit by the pandemic for two years? Share with our readers your future plans to rebuild a sustainable, accessible and competitive industry.

Vishal Bhatia: As we marked World Tourism Day 2022, Visit Britain has been shining the spotlight on the importance of Britain’s tourism industry – an industry usually worth £127 billion annually to the economy, employing 3.1 million people and supporting 200,000 small-to-medium sized businesses across the country- and its role in delivering economic growth and jobs across every nation and region.

We have also been highlighting our commitment to rebuilding a more sustainable, accessible, competitive industry, supporting the ambitions set out in the UK Government’s Tourism Recovery Plan, from championing regional dispersal, to sharing resources and best practice with businesses, to working with the industry on itineraries that support sustainable and responsible tourism. We are ensuring our visitors see Britain as a sustainable destination with a sustainable tourism content hub supporting visitors and our global travel trade partners to find products and experiences that will enrich their stay.

We also want more young people to consider a career in tourism, supporting the industry on its recruitment and retention programmes and working together on policy solutions.

We also continue to work with the travel trade and media in market to build product knowledge, broaden travel itineraries, encouraging visitors to stay longer, explore further and boost visits across the shoulder seasons. For example we hosted more than 40 top travel buyers, tour operators and trade media from Australia, Canada and India on educational visits to Birmingham and the West Midlands during the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, part of our wider three year programme of work through the Business and Tourism Programme to drive visits in the run-up to the Games and beyond.

Wider activity has ranged from content partnerships with media, training in-country travel trade and hosting trade and press trips to the West Midlands, to harnessing countdown milestones and showcase events to drive bookings to Britain. Looking at wider promotion, Visit Britain has been running content internationally including on its dedicated Games’ website inspiring visitors with activities and itineraries to explore more of Britain, stay longer and travel further.

We are working to rebuild international visitor value, positioning Britain as a dynamic, adventurous, and inclusive destination, and our international marketing campaign – to ‘See Things Differently’ – shows our icons with an unexpected twist to drive booking urgency and tell the story of our vibrant and diverse cities. We will continue to work with commercial partners to help build demand and convert inspiration to travel to Britain into bookings.


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