Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, British tourism agency in $2m partnership

Joint marketing initiative will focus on tourists from the Asia Pacific and Middle East

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Etihad Airways and Britain’s national tourism agency have agreed a $2 million marketing partnership, it was announced today.

Under the terms of the deal, the Abu Dhabi airline and VisitBritain will undertake joint marketing activities in the Asia Pacific and Middle East (APME) region, according to a statement.

The three-year partnership hopes to boost tourism to the UK from countries such as India, Australia, and the Gulf states, while encouraging more people to fly with Etihad.

Peter Baumgartner, chief commercial officer at Etihad, and Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain, signed a memorandum of understanding in Abu Dhabi.

“We’ve invested heavily in Britain’s profile across the APME region, including the UAE, so now is the time to launch robust tactical marketing - with partners such as Etihad Airways - to turn that attention into bookings,” said Dawe.

The statement cited research from the UK’s Office for National Statistics, which found that in 2012 there were over 1.8 million visits to the UK from Australia, India and the GCC, over 40 percent more than a decade ago. Britain received 530,000 visitors from the GCC during 2012, who spent £1.73 billion ($2.81bn), according to figures quoted in the statement.

The deal follows the recent move by the UK to relax visa regulations for Gulf tourists, which makes it easier and cheaper for travellers to visit the country.

Yet a report in the Sunday Times this week said that Arab tourists perceive Brits as “stingy” and liken London to a “city of fog”, according to a VisitBritain report entitled “GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] States Tourism Strategy”.

But when VisitBritain was contacted by Al Arabiya News, Dawe said her organization’s report actually confirmed Britain’s appeal to GCC travellers.

“The report actually confirms that more Gulf visitors aspire to visit Britain than any of our Western European competitors - including France and Italy,” Dawe said earlier this week.

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