By Mike Rowbottom at the at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in London

GREAT Poster_in_ParisFebruary 9 - Jeremy Hunt, the Minister for Culture and Sport, has said that Britain's biggest ever international tourist campaign, which was officially launched on Thursday – with a target of gaining an extra 4.6 million extra visitors, and £2.3 billion ($3.7 billion/€2.74 billion) additional spend, over the next four years – is deliberately flying in the face of "conventional wisdom".

Hunt insisted that the creation of the £125 million ($198 million/€149 million) campaign to promote Great Britain to the world, which will target 14 key cities in nine countries worldwide, featuring the branding "GREAT" marked "a very significant moment for the UK Government".

"There is a big conventional wisdom at times of austerity that we should be cutting back on all kinds of marketing and promotion," Hunt said.

"This is the UK Government saying, 'We are going to ignore that conventional wisdom'.

"This will be the biggest, longest ad for Britain in our history.

"As with the Opening Ceremony, when we doubled its budget, we have quite deliberately confounded conventional wisdom."

Branded posters and adverts on television and in cinemas will be seen in Beijing, Berlin, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Mumbai, New Delhi, New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Sydney, Tokyo and Toronto.

GREAT poster_in_Tokyo
An advert will greet visitors to the Louvre in Paris, pointing out that entry to the British Museum is free.

In New York, an entire metro train has been re-branded in British colours.

Additionally, personalised films of support will be released from famous British figures such as Dr Who actor Matt Smith, who extols the virtues of Wales in general, and his home base of Cardiff in particular.

"Some people will think that for traditional, conservative Brits we have gone completely berserk," Hunt added.

"What you will see here is things that Britain has never done before.

"If you are looking for a British quality you will not see this year it is modesty because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"We are still in an extremely uncertain time economically, but it is an extraordinary privilege to host the Olympics and we want to do everything we can to make sure that the legacy from hosting the games is jobs in the British tourist industry and business investment for many years to come.

GREAT posters_collection
"This is the moment when the world will be making judgements about Britain in its entirety.

"There is nothing automatic about getting a tourism boost from the Olympics, there are a number of countries who have hosted the Olympics and who have not actually gained a significant tourism boost.

"Perhaps the best examples are what the Canadians did after the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, gaining a 17 per cent boost in tourism income, and what Germany did after the World Cup in 2006 when they significantly moved Germany's rankings up the nations and brands index.

"So there are good examples as well and we are very much learning from those countries."

Sandie Dawe, chief executive of VisitBritain, told insidethegames that the largest previous campaign to stimulate tourism came a decade ago, when £20 million ($32 million/€24 million) was invested in the wake of 9/11 and an outbreak of Foot and mouth disease in the same year.

"Figures had fallen off a cliff at that time," Dawe said.

"They had dropped by around 15 per cent, which was an effective loss of hundreds of millions of pounds.

"We got an extra £20 million ($32 million/€24 million) at that time to run a campaign promoting the country and regenerating tourist interest.

"And as a result of that we renewed our figures more swiftly than any other European nation.

"This is for a completely different reason.

"But I suppose the equivalent figure would be the £25 million ($40 million/€30 million) we are putting into the initial campaign, and an additional quarter of the further £100 million ($158/€119 million) million planned over the next four years."

GREAT poster_country
Latest figures based on first nine months of 2011, after three successive years of decline, show visitor figures have risen by 800,000 – or three per cent – to 30.6 million.

The accompanying spend has risen to £17.8 million ($28.2 million/€21.2 million), up five per cent on 2010.

And there have been significant rises in the number of visitors from Brazil (42 per cent up), India (11 per cent), China (26 per cent) and North America (five per cent).

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
January 2012: London 2012 decision to return 20 per cent of hotel rooms set to boost Olympic tourism
January 2012: Samsung and visitBritain launch Best of Britain mobile app for London 2012
September 2011: London 2012 could provide £500 million boost to British domestic tourism claims Hunt
July 2011: USOC partner with VisitBritain to celebrate unique sporting heritage ahead of London 2012
June 2011:"You're invited" British celebrities tell world as tourism agency begins London 2012 marketing campaign