London should be used as the launch pad for a growth in regional tourism from overseas visitors, according to a new report conducted on behalf of VisitBritain.
With the iconic sites of the capital providing the key perceptions of the UK for most global travellers, The Beyond London Challenge report, produced by research agency Olive, suggests there is a need to accept London as "a strength to be utilised as many cannot consider a visit to the UK without a London stay".
The report was compiled following studies of the mature markets of Norway, Germany, France and the US, alongside emerging one of Brazil, India and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Apart from Norway and Germany most of the countries studied don't consider Britain as a tourist destination beyond London. Rather than being due to a lack of knowledge about what is offered outside the capital, it appears that there is a lack of any recognition that there is an offer at all.
Travellers who do venture out into the regions tend to have been to Britain many times, stayed longer and have enjoyed their trips more than those who have been to London only.
"If we can get people to go beyond London they will have more memorable times and be more likely to share these times with their friends," said the report.
Scotland is the one region that does have some form of global identity of any scale and is generally seen as an entity in its own right. Travellers from the US and France tends to regard the regions as being too far away and expensive to get to, while driving on the wrong side of the road for some markets and the "cold and grey" climate can be a barrier for other markets.
Meanwhile, visitors from the likes of India and Brazil are motivated by the idea of a modern and efficient train service.
The attraction of the regions tend to be market specific, with Brazil and the US inspired by history, heritage and contemporary culture such as the Beatles and Harry Potter films. India is attracted by the countryside for peace and relaxation and the GCC countries like the idea of luxury in the countryside, as long as it is not too far from London.
Patricia Yates, director of strategy at VisitBritain, said: London is the global superstar of tourism destinations, a city that all around the world people want to visit, Because of this, we need to make sure we are inspiring them on the Britain-wide offering and informing on how easy it is to travel across the country in such a short space of time."
In 2013 London welcomed 16.78 million visits from overseas, representing 51.25% of all visits to the UK. These visits generated £11.25b of income (53.6% of all spend in the UK).
Meanwhile, the rest of England, Scotland and Wales welcomed 13.62 million, 2.44 million and 884,000 visits from abroad respectively. The income generated from these visits amounted to £7.14b, £1.68b and £353m respectively.