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In this exclusive interview with Traveltalk, Maria Sykes, VisitBritain’s Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand, reveals exciting plans for 2024, including two major initiatives happening Down Under.

Q: Maria, the latest figures for Aussie visitation to Britain make for great reading. You must be delighted?

A: We more than quadrupled the value of Australia to the British visitor economy between quarter one and quarter three in 2022 and we thought the bubble might burst in 2023, but far from it.

Between quarter one and quarter three last year it was explosive. Those first three quarters alone smashed the entire value of 2022. We’re currently sitting at about £1.3 billion in value and we’ve never done that before.

For a nation of 26 million people to become the second most valuable market in the third quarter, behind only the U.S., is extraordinary. I think we can safely say we’ve recovered from the COVID years.

Q: What do you put these record numbers down to?

A: We don’t really say this out loud in polite society but Aussies and Brits actually secretly like each other! I’ve always wanted to see a campaign called “Great Mates” because I think that’s exactly what we are.

We’ve also got a lot of cultural connections, there’s the sporting rivalry and Aussies know Britain well and they love it. They go every three years on average and they know when to do it: close to 60 per cent travel outside peak season.

Q: So you must love having Aussies in the UK?

A: They really are the perfect travellers and that’s why we have a presence in Australia because the Aussie traveller is so coveted.

They stay a long time, they spend a lot of money and they are willing to travel outside the major areas for a different kind of experience. They’re the world’s favourite travellers.

Q: How are you going to keep the momentum going into 2024?

A: We had a lot going on last year with the Coronation and Eurovision but this is going to be another brilliant year and I’m super excited about a campaign we’ve got coming up.

It’s going to be tapping into the really powerful pull of ‘screen tourism’. We know from our research and data that people are hugely motivated to go and see places for real that they have seen on the small or large screen and put themselves into the action.

So, we are really excited to announce that later this year VisitBritain will be launching a major global marketing campaign in Australia around the theme of “Starring GREAT Britain”.

This will really tap into some iconic, beloved film and TV content, from Bridgerton to James Bond, Harry Potter to Peaky Blinders.


I’ve seen some previews and I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. I think you’re really going to love it because it’s really entertaining.


There’s so much you can go and do when you’re standing on British soil to go and get under the bonnet of these TV shows and movies.

You can go and fly a broomstick and pretend you’re Harry Potter at Alnwick Castle; you can do a fabulous Bridgerton tour of those gorgeous buttery yellow Regency houses in Bath; there’s a Peaky Blinders tour of Birmingham. So, we’re really excited about this campaign.

Q: Are travel agents still a vital part of your marketing strategy?

A: 100 per cent. All our data consistently shows that travel agents are that really key source of truth and expert knowledge for Aussies when they are planning their trip to Britain.

The UK is a long-haul destination and often travellers will be looking at more than one destination within that trip. You want an expert hand in navigating what can be a complex itinerary. Agents are still absolutely fundamentally important.

Q: And on that I believe you’ve got some big news for the travel trade?

A: For the first time since 2016 we are hosting the first travel trade mission in Australia in nigh on eight years. We’re expecting more than 40 British suppliers to come out in September and spend a whole week with Aussie buyers and agents across three cities.

We’ve got a jam packed itinerary for Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and we’re very excited about that. We’re trying to make sure that we’ve got a really good mix of suppliers so that everyone gets value out of it.

Q: Finally, has it surprised you that travel has bounced back so well post-COVID?

A: International travel is now worth £31 billion to the UK whereas pre-COVID it was £27 billion so it’s definitely back.

I have been surprised because this whole recovery coincides with a cost of living crisis and so I suppose in that context, if you’re realistic, the scale and value of it is surprising.

Our data shows that many people post-COVID have decided that travel is a non-discretionary expense and so it’s just at a different place in our psyche.

I think that with Aussies being located where we are, we go out and we travel and explore the world and when that was taken away from us it was a defining period for a lot of people. But given Australians’ love affair with travel, I don’t think that will ever change.