2012 Research by the British Council suggests that the UK’s big events of the past year – including the Olympics, Paralympics and Jubilee – have improved the UK’s reputation overseas and created substantial new interest in the country as a place to visit, study and do business.
The research was carried out for the British Council by Ipsos MORI among 8000 adults in 11 key overseas economies – including the US, China, India and Russia. It was commissioned as part of the British Council’s work to build relationships for the UK around the world through education, the English language and the arts.
The London 2012 Games have had a major overseas impact – with almost two thirds (64%) saying the UK did a good job at organising the Olympics (compared with only 6% who disagree), and 44% believing that the UK has a greater influence over world affairs as a result (with only 3% taking a negative view).
More than 1 person in 3 (36%) said the 2012 Games have made them more likely to visit the UK – and more than 1 person in 3 (35%) said the Games have made the UK more attractive to them as a place to do business or study. Fewer than 1 in 5 (18%) said the Olympics have not made them any more likely to want to visit, study or do business in the UK.
More than half of people questioned said the Olympics and Paralympics have made them think more positively about how the UK views disability (56%), the UK’s sporting prowess (52%), the UK’s arts scene (54%), and how friendly the people of the UK are (52%). Almost half said the Games have made them think more positively about the UK’s sense of humour (46%). In all cases, no more than 5% said the Games have had a negative effect on these views.
The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee also contributed to improved perceptions of the UK on a smaller scale. More than a quarter of people questioned (27%) said they had experienced or been aware of the Jubilee in some form – and, of those, 1 in 3 (31%) said they think more positively about the UK as a result, with only 3% saying that it has had a negative effect on their perceptions of the UK.
John Worne, the British Council’s Director of Strategy, said: “To know us is to love us and this year the UK has got everything right in turning some great national moments into global celebrations of excellence, ‘can do’ attitude and UK culture. These results show just what we can do when Team GB pulls together.
“The challenge now is to stay on top of the world in 2013. Without a huge global event like the Olympics next year, we need to keep on finding smart new ways to share our soft power assets: English, our education system, our vibrant arts scene and our entrepreneurial spirit to name but a few.”
Geographically, the research shows a particularly high impact in India – where more than three quarters believe that the UK did a good job at organising the Olympics (78%) and two thirds are more interested in doing business with or studying in the UK as a result (65%). China – hosts of the 2008 Olympics – were least likely to be positive about the UK’s job of organising the 2012 Games (36%), but 43% still believe that the Games have improved the UK’s influence over world affairs.
Sandie Dawe, Chief Executive at VisitBritain, welcomed the findings: “These results confirm the great year that Britain has had on the world stage, but now comes the hard work to turn that global spotlight into visitors. We have spent much of the year developing a tourism strategy for Britain which is capable of delivering a sustained legacy from 2012's remarkable events.
“As things stand we are at the pinnacle of our profile overseas. These spectacular events created a once in a lifetime year for the British and a year in which our country has never looked so good to viewers around the world. That publicity will be harnessed by VisitBritain to drive visitors here in the years to come. For 2013, we are forecasting international tourism to Britain will grow by 3%, meaning almost one million extra visitors to the UK who will spend a record £19bn for the very first time. Early signs are good and international tourism can certainly deliver.”
John Worne is available to talk about the findings and why they matter, reflect on the UK’s big achievements of 2012, and comment on what the UK needs to do to keep up the momentum in 2013.