With a clutch of global stars in harness and £100m to spend on marketing, tourism bosses are hoping that they can revive the Cool Britannia vibe in time for the Olympics and the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012.
A TV commercial which aims to dispel Britain’s stuffy reputation abroad and promote a more contemporary image is to be broadcast around the world.
Developed by advertising agency M&C Saatchi, the “You’re Invited” campaign features actors Dame Judi Dench, Dev Patel and Rupert Everett raving about their own personal favourite UK destinations. Jamie Oliver and Twiggy will also feature in the push, aimed at raising visitor numbers by four million a year.
Patel, star of Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire, woos potential travellers by promoting the “buzz” and “energy” of London’s Leicester Square, while Everett waxes lyrical about the “rickshaws, queens and bikers” of night time Soho.
Twiggy, who was filmed on location on the Millennium bridge in London, promotes Britain’s “amazing stable of designers” and chef Oliver, who has been trying to break the US in the last year, talks up the UK’s “magpie culture” of “taking the world’s best bits”.
Extolling the UK’s more traditional image of stately homes and rolling countryside, Dench chose to be filmed at Hever Castle in Kent, the ancestral home of Anne Boleyn, where the actor often walks her dog.
Reclining on an antique sofa upholstered in union flag fabric, Dench, 76, says: “Our great bonus is that we have Shakespeare, whose plays we’ve been performing for over 400 years.
“Thank goodness. He used to be known in our family as the man who paid the rent.”
Attempting to capitalise on favourable exchange rates and the royal wedding, which was watched by a global audience of two billion, VisitBritain hopes to capture a “national mood of celebration” surrounding the diamond jubilee and the Games.
Much of the campaign is expected to be targeted at the highly profitable US market.
According to VisitBritain, last year American visitors spent £2.1bn in the UK. However numbers are still down from pre-9/11 levels. In 2010 there were just under 2.7m visits to the UK by US residents, down from a peak of 4.1m in 2000.
VisitBritain’s £50m budget was cut by 34% in the government’s spending review, but it also receives funding from private firms such as British Airways, lastminute.com and hotel chain Radisson Edwardian.