Stephen Dowd, chief executive of UKInbound

08 March 2007 by
Stephen Dowd, chief executive of UKInbound

Chief executive of tourism trade body UKInbound Stephen Dowd has been instrumental in establishing the first-ever British Tourism Week. He talks to Emily Manson

What inspired you?

A frustration at the way the industry has been developing along separate lines: the hospitality industry on one side, hotels on the other, and attractions on yet another, all doing their own thing. We've not been able to come up with a coherent policy to put to Government, which recognises this and uses our differences to jam a wedge between us to make us weaker. We're the fifth-largest industry in the UK and the second-largest export earner, yet we're treated almost with disdain by Government.

What's the aim of the campaign?

To try and bring all these disparate elements under one banner and become a unifying force.

What's going to happen?

We have 42 different events throughout the sectors and the country. There are national events and local grass-roots events, but we've also challenged MPs to visit a tourist business in their constituency.

How can industry people get involved?

There are two main ways at this late stage: attend one of the events or visit our website and pledge your support by writing a testimonial.

How will you inspire Brits to holiday in Britain rather than abroad?

We're not aiming the campaign at consumers this year, as we simply didn't have the resources. We decided to start with the business end - but a campaign like that is a possibility for future years.

How do you feel Britain's tourism product compares to its European rivals?

Britain invented the package holiday. We're masters at it and although we went through a period of underinvestment, our product is now world-class. Our hotels, spas and restaurants win international awards every year, and we should be more proud of them instead of trying to knock them.

There's a lot of talk about Britishness these days. What do you think it is?

Britishness is a state of mind. We are a very welcoming society: open and liberal in our views and in the way we deal with people, but that's now almost seen as a weakness. We embrace other cultures, have a fantastic sense of humour, and it's just a shame when people exploit that.

What's your favourite thing about British tourism?

The diversity. I travel around the country all the time and I'm still amazed by the different things we can offer: there's castles and historic legacies next to modern architecture and then, round the corner, there's fabulous countryside and dramatic coastlines. We're a small island, but we have everything here. We just need to feel proud of it.

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