Britain’s Big Year



All eyes will be on London next yearwhen the city hosts the Olympics.

With an ongoing series of big events leading up to next year’s Olympic games in London, there was a sense of excitement at this year’s Best of Britain & Ireland Travel Trade Forum (BOBI) in Birmingham. Buyers and sellers alike were brimming with anticipation, and looking for ways to turn those events into tourism dollars—not just for London, but for all of Britain.

Agent Advice

Linda Miller of Avanti Destinations likes the country-specific trade shows like BOBI because she can meet with smaller operators who are less likely to attend the bigger shows. “I touch base with current suppliers and meet potential new suppliers at the networking gala dinner and personalized appointments,” she says.

“Product ideas are also inspired by the pre- and post-show fam trips,” Miller adds. “I find it’s a balance between meeting the suppliers at these trade shows and then seeing the product firsthand ...then the wheels start spinning and I have that ‘aha!’ moment where I start to create the new package I want to offer.”

“BOBI is an excellent opportunity to meet suppliers face-to-face, brainstorm and develop new ideas and business ventures,” says Kathy Callanan Writer, vice president, operations of Celtic Tours. “Before BOBI, our UK business really only consisted of London city stays. Now, I have some great Scotland and England programs in place, and I anticipate growth for Wales, too.

Tourism is Britain’s fifth-largest industry, contributing over $188 billion to the economy every year. “Interest in Britain as a tourism destination has never been stronger,” says Christopher Rodrigues, VisitBritain’s chairman, championing Britain as “easy to sell and to buy,” especially because of the flourishing food scene, and the explosion in the three-star hotel category, adding accommodation options at all price points. Travel agents with questions about BOBI should contact Lisa Sjolund (310-268-2133, [email protected]), partnership development executive, Travel Trade, at Visit Britain.

Notes from BOBI

London is gearing up for the Olympics, hoping that a large-scale PR opportunity will translate into long-term tourism growth. The goal is to have 100 percent of spectators use public transport to reach Olympic Park, which is served by 11 rail lines. The high-speed Javelin Shuttle will whisk visitors from St. Pancras to the Park in just seven minutes. Tickets for the Olympics went on sale March 15 in the UK; in the U.S., these tickets can be secured through CoSport.

Visit Kent is marketing the region as an ideal place to stay during the Olympics. Hotels are a good value, and Olympic Park is just 10 minutes away from Ebbsfleet International Station. Likewise, Yorkshire is promoting itself as “the perfect base for 2012”—with teams from the U.S., Serbia and the Netherlands training there prior to the Games.

With value accommodations in beautiful surroundings, Yorkshire is billing itself as the “perfect base for 2012” events in Britain.

Just under two hours from London by train, Yorkshire is an attractive destination in its own right, offering six Michelin-starred restaurants and well-priced accommodations in beautiful surroundings. Another lure: Yorkshire’s literary and film connections. There’s been lots of buzz about the new Jane Eyre film, and Welcome to Yorkshire is promoting special package tours to the settings in the classic novel. Note: The travel trade can earn up to 20 percent commission on the Yorkshire pass, which offers access to 75 tourism attractions.

More news from Kent: Turner Contemporary opens in Margate on April 16 as one of the country’s largest art galleries outside London. In June, English Heritage will reopen the secret wartime tunnels at Dover Castle, never before open to the public. Visit Kent is also creating royal itineraries, tied in with the Royal Wedding and the Diamond Jubilee, through the castle-dotted countryside that’s served as an idyllic escape for kings and queens. Next year, Kent celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, one of Britain’s greatest novelists, as part of the Dickens 2012 Festival.

Following the success of Scotland’s Homecoming celebrations in 2009, VisitScotland hosted the largest pavilion at BOBI, with more than 20 suppliers. Its tourism promotion involves marketing Scotland in a series of legacy years, focused on themes. This year of Active Scotland will be followed by Creative Scotland in 2012. Travel agents can keep up-to-date with new Scotland products on the trade website

Northern Ireland is prepping for the 2012 debut of the Titanic Belfast, an exciting new attraction—enormous in scale—that will tell the story of the world’s most famous ship.

Bookworms will appreciate Guernsey’s first-ever Literary Festival this month, while music fans shouldn’t miss the Beatles Story in Liverpool.

A Royal Tour of England

We joined a group of 20 tour operators for VisitBritain’s pre-show fam trip. In London, we checked out the Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel. As the largest five-star hotel in London, Grosvenor House is ideal for groups. The Great Room—formerly an Art Deco ice skating rink—is a beautiful space that hosts events like the BAFTA awards. For VIP bookings, contact Director of Sales Steve Nunan.

We also toured the Royal Horseguards Hotel, fresh from a dramatic renovation. Perched alongside the Thames, the five-star hotel offers unrivaled river views from 60 of its 281 light-filled rooms. Tip: The Tower Suite, the best room in the house, is the ideal spot to take in London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Wellington Arch and Apsley House are two splendid but often overlooked London sites. Visits to English Heritage attractions like these can be organized for groups; contact Christine Morgenstern (011-44-20-7973-3422, Christine. [email protected]), sales and marketing manager. 

North Foreland Lighthouse
Kent is marketing itself as a place to stay during the Olympics, as well as promoting its own attractions such as the North Foreland Lighthouse in Thanet.

We also took in some theatrical productions. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new adaptation of The Wizard of Oz at the London Palladium has been hyped because of the talent search for Dorothy, with a reality show on BBC called Over the Rainbow. At Stratford-upon-Avon, we saw the Royal Shakespeare Company perform Romeo and Juliet on the new “thrust” stage. After a $184.4 million refurbishment, the 1,000-seat auditorium brings together the audience and the actors the way theaters did in Shakespeare’s time.

To reach Birmingham for the BOBI expo, we traveled on a Royal Tour customized by Norman Allen Group Travel to include stops at Windsor Castle, the charming village of Tetbury (home to the Prince of Wales’ High Grove shop) and Kate Middleton’s hometown of Bucklebury, where we stopped for lunch at the local pub, the Bladebone Inn. (Commemorative bottles of Royal Wedding beer—brewed just up the road—are sold with a smile.) 

A Taste of Scotland

Our post-BOBI tour headed to Glasgow with Blue Badge Guide Jean Blair, one of the best tour guides we’ve ever had. Once an industrial capital, the city has morphed into a cutting-edge cultural destination with dynamite restaurants like Cail Bruich. The June 2011 opening of the Riverside Museum, designed by “starchitect” Zaha Hadid, will no doubt attract the world’s culture vultures.

From the hip (Citizen M) to the traditional (Grand Central Hotel), good hotels abound. The Blythswood Square Hotel deserves a special mention. Formerly the Royal Scottish Automobile Club, the landmark building now houses the first AA five-star hotel in Glasgow, complete with a destination spa.

South of Glasgow in Ayrshire, the newly renovated Robert Burns Birthplace Museum educates visitors about Scotland’s beloved bard. It’s an entertaining visit for Burns fans and newbies alike.

On the Isle of Arran, bathed in the mild currents of the Gulf Stream, we warmed up with award-winning whiskey at the Isle of Arran Distillery, scouted the coastline for seals, tested lotions and potions at Arran Aromatics, and tasted local venison, lamb, cheese and salmon. The Auchrannie House Hotel, Spa Resort and Country Club has a devoted following of regulars, and we were delighted by the Kildonan Hotel, a small bed-and-breakfast on the southern coast. Claire Richardson, Auchrannie’s sales and marketing manager, has a wealth of information about the isle, a truly magical place, a short drive and ferry ride from Glasgow.

Creative Scotland
VisitScotland’s 2011 year of Active Scotland will be followed by Creative Scotland in 2012.


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