In­ter­view

Travel Digest - - EDITORIAL - — Lor­raine Thom­son

The Or­der of the Bri­tish Em­pire ( OBE) is an or­der of chivalry in the Bri­tish and Com­mon­wealth hon­ours sys­tems. It was es­tab­lished in 1917 by King George V and com­prises five classes, in civil and mil­i­tary di­vi­sions. It was con­se­quently a plea­sure to meet up with a Bri­tish lady head­ing a tourism or­gan­i­sa­tion with an OBE. Deirdre Wells, OBE, is the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the trade as­so­ci­a­tion UKin­bound, rep­re­sent­ing the in­ter­ests of the UK’s in­bound tourism sec­tor. I met up with Deirdre at the World Travel Mar­ket in London after her pres­ence on a panel dis­cussing the World Travel Mar­ket 2014 In­dus­try Re­port. It is al­ways a plea­sure to meet a women in the travel in­dus­try head­ing an au­gust body. Com­par­a­tively, there are very few, although Deirdre begs to dif­fer. “The new chief ex­ec­u­tive of Visit Bri­tain Sally Balcombe and the Bri­tish Hos­pi­tal­ity As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Ufi Ibrahim are two fe­male lead­ers,” she says. “The tourism in­dus­try is very sup­port­ive of fe­male lead­er­ship. Those run­ning air­lines is per­haps one area we need to work on,” she adds. Dei­dre joined UKin­bound in March this year from the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment depart­ment of cul­ture, me­dia and sport, where she was head of tourism. In this role she was in­stru­men­tal in de­liv­er­ing the Great Cam­paign – an am­bi­tious mar­ket­ing cam­paign aim­ing to help the world dis­cover why Bri­tain is a great place to visit, study, work, invest and do business. She had been with the gov­ern­ment for 20 years, hold­ing a num­ber of high pro­file po­si­tions. Deirdre was awarded the OBE in 2007 for her work head­ing the team which de­liv­ered the memo­rial ser­vices for the vic­tims of 9 / 11, Bali, The Asian Tsunami and London 7 / 7. “It was very hum­bling. A lot of fam­i­lies would have sup­ported the nom­i­na­tion,” she says. More re­cently Deirdre held the post of pro­gramme man­ager for the Olympic Legacy Board. In her new job at UKin­bound she is fo­cus­ing on trav­ellers com­ing into the UK. “We have 300 mem­bers in­clud­ing tour op­er­a­tors, ho­tels, attractions, sight­see­ing tours and shop­ping cen­tres. Our role is lob­by­ing gov­ern­ment and sup­port­ing the growth of in­bound tourism, such as mak­ing the visa regime more friendly” she says. The or­ga­ni­za­tion runs a se­ries of events like the UK stand at the World Travel Mar­ket, where there are 60 ex­hibitors. “We do a lot of net­work­ing events out­side London too. The US, France, Ger­many and Spain are our bread and but­ter mar­kets, but it is chang­ing. We support mem­bers in new mar­kets and for the Rugby World Cup ( RWC) a lot of our mem­bers deal with New Zealand and Aus­tralia. We also support World War I memo­ri­als.” New Zealand fea­tures in the top 20 tar­get mar­kets for UKin­bound and it is a mar­ket Deirdre hopes to ex­pand, es­pe­cially with the RWC. She rec­og­nizes the im­por­tance of vis­it­ing friends and rel­a­tives ( VFR) too. “It is a very easy mar­ket to support and en­gage with. I think we dis­miss VFR at our peril. Peo­ple who live here are the best am­bas­sadors for the coun­try. VFR has huge po­ten­tial, par­tic­u­larly around key events.” Deirdre, mean­time, finds her role at UKin­bound of­fers a high level of ex­cite­ment. “In­ter­na­tional tourism to the UK is cur­rently boom­ing, con­tribut­ing hugely to the coun­try’s eco­nomic re­cov­ery. Through my work on ma­jor events such as the Mil­len­nium Dome, the Olympic and Par­a­lympic Games, Liver­pool Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture and more re­cently, as the gov­ern­ment’s head of tourism, I have been ex­tremely im­pressed with the ca­pac­ity of our in­dus­try to grow, in­no­vate and re­spond to cus­tomer de­mand.” Deirdre is also a board mem­ber of The Tourism So­ci­ety and the Tourism Al­liance and a mem­ber of the Top 100 Club, Women 1st [ a net­work of the most in­flu­en­tial women in hos­pi­tal­ity, pas­sen­ger trans­port, travel and tourism]. This is a woman on a mis­sion and a role model for other as­pir­ing tourism lead­ers.

UKin­bound chief ex­ec­u­tive Deirdre Wells, OBE . . . “Vis­it­ing friends and rel­a­tives has huge po­ten­tial, par­tic­u­larly around key events.”

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