Can you advertise British weather to tourists?

Sunbather in St James's Park

British weather is often seen as a drawback but a marketing campaign is hoping to use the nation's favourite talking point to attract foreigners. So can Britain's weather really boost tourism?

There is little Britons love moaning about more than the weather.

Barely a day passes without a familiar exchange along the lines of: "Isn't it terrible weather? Isn't it cold out?".

Indeed some would argue that - along with tea drinking and queueing - lamenting the weather is almost woven into British DNA.

But according to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Britain is selling itself short.

He says British weather is much better than both Britons and foreigners - who tend to think of Britain as a rainy and cold country - believe.

Announcing a government campaign to attract more tourists, he told the Times: "We have much lower rainfall than Paris. We have to make sure people understand the reality about the weather."

So could the weather actually be Britain's secret weapon?

The Independent's travel editor Simon Calder thinks the campaign might be on to something.

British weather facts

  • The average number of days on which rain falls in London each year is less than in Paris, Santander (Spain) and Wellington (New Zealand)
  • London is drier than Rome, New York, Brisbane, Rio de Janeiro, and Tokyo
  • The average minimum daily temperature in London is higher than that in Seattle, Dublin and Toronto

Source: Visit Britain

"It is the British way to grumble about our weather - but the more you travel, the more you understand that we enjoy a wonderfully diverse yet usually benign climate.

"San Diego in California may claim the balmiest weather, and Phoenix, Arizona, the sunniest, but ours is much more interesting," he says.

Far from bemoaning the weather's changeability, travel writer Hilary Bradt agrees that it is its variety that makes it so exciting.

"There is nothing monotonous about the British weather, and it's because of its variety that we have such wonderful landscapes and countryside.

"I used to live in California, and actually the relentless blue skies became very boring," she says.

But even if British weather is better - and more interesting - than people think, how easy is it to market?

According to Jonathan Gabay, a marketing expert and the founder of Brand Forensics, selling the weather is always going to be an uphill struggle.

People share an umbrella on Whitley Bay, Yorkshire, during the wettest August in Britain on record, 2008 Britons are accustomed to spells of heavy rainy

"A few years ago Israel ran a marketing campaign that showed the country wasn't all desert - it showed Tel Aviv - that was acceptable because it was fact.

"The trouble with the weather is that, even with statistics - for example saying the rainfall is actually x, even though you thought it was y - how on earth can you be sure it will happen? It's variable," he says.

As far as facts go, rain actually falls on fewer days a year in London than it does in Paris, Santander in Spain, and Wellington in New Zealand, according to VisitBritain.

Over the last 30 years, the average maximum temperature in July has been 20.6C in Teignmouth, Devon, 19.4C in Newton Rigg, Cumbria, and 22.8C in Greenwich, London, Met Office figures reveal.

That compares with 18C in Auchincruive, Ayrshire and 19C in Armagh.

Average rainfall in July between 1971-2000

  • Teignmouth, Devon - 36mm
  • Greenwich, London - 38mm
  • Newton Rigg, Cumbria - 66mm
  • Auchincruive, Ayrshire - 70mm
  • Armagh - 55mm

Source: Met Office

But even with statistics, Bradt thinks it will be difficult to change people's perceptions - especially if it needs to start in Britain's own backyard.

"The campaign might be able to change foreigners attitudes - even though the strong perceptions of foggy Britain from the 60s and 70s still persist - but it will be difficult to change British attitudes.

"The British love complaining - it's either too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry - our whole culture is based on complaining about the weather, it's what binds people together," she says.

Gabay thinks there is also another factor at play. According to the branding expert, this is the era of the most cynical consumers ever, and toying with one of the things people most look forward to - their two-week break - is quite a risk.

"There are a couple of things that you don't mess with consumers over - one is religion, another is money - the past performance of a fund does not necessarily reflect its future performance - but perhaps the one that supersedes them all is their holiday," he says.

Highest temperature in August, 2011

  • Teignmouth, Devon - 24.6C
  • Newton Rigg, Cumbria - 22.3C
  • Auchincruive, Ayrshire - 19.9C
  • Armagh - 22.4C

Source: Met Office

Rather than using the weather as a "hook", Gabay thinks it would be safer to focus on Britain's heritage, landscape or people.

"Admittedly not everyone wants hot weather, not everyone wants a beach. But if you are going to hedge your bets, people are go to Marbella rather than Manchester," he says.

However Calder believes Britain could do much more to market itself, especially off season, by pointing to some surprising features.

"For example in the lovely county of Somerset, the driest month is April. And its joint warmest month - with July - is May," he says.

So where does Calder think is the best weather in Britain?

"Scotland, by a mile, where a day without at least two or three seasons represented is unusual," he says.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    As a New Englander & having been to the UK several times, your weather not so bad. We have old saying: if ya don't like the weather wait a minute. Will say that if you travel around New England you see why its called New England. Like you, I wouldn't change anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    British weather is just like Baby Bears Porridge not too hot not too cold not too wet and not too dry. however you do need to understand what ever it could be it can all come in one day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    grayhame to promote the uk change the time zone to european time .
    The longer evenings will be warmer early evening for sitting outdoors to eat and drink

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    We last year married outside beside a lake in the Lake District. Many hours were spent researching the driest day based on weather records. The day before it was very cold with heavy hail. The next day was warm and sunny...sometimes you just get lucky!

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    We don't have any kind of extreme weather here, it never gets really hot or cold (compared to other places in the world anyway) We don't have tornadoes or hurricanes. We also don't have earthquakes or volcanoes, & none of our wildlife is particularly dangerous. Most traditional tourist destinations have at least some of the above drawbacks, so what's not to love about the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    british weather? our summer consists of 2 month (if we are lucky) of sunshine, 6 month of dull cold weather and 6 month of rain, snow and frozen ground. that is above watford gap, below there it maybe different but for us northerners its as described above. tourists come to sample the shiver then go home to get warm!

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    For 'Weather' read 'Whether' ..... whether its going to rain or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    England enjoys such beautiful weather. Its true joy comes from our lack of extremes. Our summers are as gentle as our winters are mild. As a nation, many of us demand overpowering sunshine and constant blue skies for our holidays. Ask most people outside of Europe if they would holiday by lying almost naked on a beach in full sun and they will think you are completely mad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Tourists do not come to England for the weather. Most come for the way of life, shopping and looking at history. If they want sunshine they find other places.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    In an Olympic year a good summer will work wonders for our future tourist trade. We're long overdue for one-not that that is much of a pointer for summer 2012!
    There's no getting away from the fact these are cloudy islands. We have less rain than many places but it comes as drizzle and goes on for ages. AGW will simply mean the rain gets warmer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    Visit Britain where the weather comes to you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    Reliably unreliable, vague seasons and lots of grey days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Britain is the most inventive country in the world & I think I know why. If you have lots of snow (Switzerland) you ski; if you have permanently sunny beaches (Oz), you surf, but if the climate is always doing different things, then you have to think of loads of different things to do (Tennis, Golf, Footie, Rugby, Cricket, The Industrial Revolution etc). Necessity is the mother of invention.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    I remember looking out of the plane as we flew back into London from California, and thinking "Wow, isn't it green". Our fairly mild climate is responsible for our beautiful countryside, and my garden (with minimal effort from me) will always look better than my brother's $40,000 landscaped Californian yard (and we don't get the bush fires or earthquakes).

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    Perhaps our milder climate could be an advantage for tourists. I know a number of people from the Mediterranean who like coming to the UK because the temperatures are cooler. I am grateful for living in a country where I do not get insect bites even though I would prefer it to be a little warmer at times.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Boris, the Games are coming-time to put 'London's weather in a bag' made up of latest textiles (graffiti, foil) protecting from rain, wind and...sun, lighter than a bottle of Coke. Sell it and earn millions from London's weather. Who says there is no such identity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    I'm from Belgium and I think the British weather is awful. Even when it's warn it can often feel cool. You don't get warm summer nights here either. The climate is just too maritime for my liking.

    Fortunately I enjoy other aspects of the country more.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    The only thing predictable thing about British weather is the fact that it's unpredictable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    It's simple.

    We should advertise Britain as a largely air conditioned country. We only have serious humidity problems (and then only in the South) for one or two days a year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    I have lived in San Francisco & Marbella. I prefer England's climate to the Costa del Sol for year round living. The Brits are not alone in talking aboout the weather. I like Mark Twain's observation,
    "Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it." Travel in the UK in November or March may be a bit rainy but there are few tourists and the Lake District aleays looks great


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