Still recovering from being slammed by former staff for instituting 80 job cuts from its home as well as overseas offices, the British Tourist Authority’s Visit Britain has come under attack again. This time the pressure is stemming from an unflattering picture of Britain portrayed by a newly-released book called “The New Rough Guide to England.”
The new guidebook flatly states, “England would be among the last destinations on any traveler’s wish list.” According to the book, while London remains the place to be for visitors and natives alike with its variety of culture, restaurants, shopping and jobs, Britain today is a “nation of overweight, binge-drinking reality TV addicts, obsessed with toffs and C-list celebrities.”
“The English have become obedient consumers rather than active citizens, with brand loyalty the nearest thing to religious/ spiritual belief. They swallow anti-depressants by the bucket loads,” the book stated.
Claiming that easy immigration rules has created a chasm in its national identity, the English has become a deeply conservative place, which at the same time has a richly multi-ethnic culture. “It’s a nation that prides itself on its patriotism, yet has a Scottish prime minister, an Italian football coach and a Greek royal consort.”
The weather, according the guide, has become a national obsession. “A two-day cold snap is discussed as if it were the onset of a new Ice Age and a week above 25 degrees starts rumors of a drought.”
But it is also a country of animal-loving, tea-drinking, charity donors, where getting in line remains a national pastime and bastions of civilization.
Dismissing the attack on Britain as tongue-in-cheek, a Visit Britain spokesman said, “People should not take these comments seriously. Britain is the third largest tourist brand in the world.”
The British quirky sense of humor and personality is instead being seen as its saving grace, making England so attractive and appealing to its many visitors, along with the English heritage and culture. “The people’s warmth is in the humor, its national identity that is bred to the bone,” adds the guide. “It allows its people to negotiate the apparent contradictions, as well as overcome the problems of overcrowded roads and a ‘risible’ public transport system.”
The guide states, contemporary England is a deeply conservative place, which at the same time has a richly multi-ethnic culture. Its fish and chips gave way years ago to chicken tikka masala as the country’s favorite dish, and while it distrusts the Europeans, the English are increasingly embracing a continental lifestyle.
Despite the country’s perpetual collision of culture, class and race, England still manages to “fit together.”
“Of the 200-plus destinations across the world that Rough Guide covers, there is none so fascinating, beautiful and culturally diverse, yet as insular, self-important and irritating, as England,” the guidebook concluded.
Britain’s Tourism Society, at the forefront of promoting inbound tourism to Britain, has said staff cuts under the guise of restructuring is affecting the work of Visit Britain, whose function is essentially to maintain the profile of Britain to incoming tourists.
Furthermore, the high value of the English currency compared to other European currencies, high visa charges, and Air Passenger Duty are making Britain a very expensive destination for inbound tourists.
As host of the 2012 Olympic Games, Visit Britain is targeting a revenue of 2 billion pounds (US$58 billion) from tourism inflow into England during the Games.