The Olympic Park in East London is the hub for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. // © 2012 VisitBritain
It’s an exciting year for London. The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will begin in just a few months and the Diamond Jubilee celebration for Queen Elizabeth II heats up in June. And this spring, VisitBritain and The European Tour Operators Association (ETOA) brought 178 international travel industry buyers and journalists from 20 markets together to meet with 180 U.K. suppliers for the first Great Britain Hosted Buyer’s Marketplace at Wembley Stadium.
The format for this event enabled buyers to be stationed around the hall while the suppliers moved around for 12-minute, pre-scheduled appointments.
In addition, many of the international buyers were given the opportunity to learn about the latest news from VisitEngland, VisitScotland, VisitWales and London & Partners before the official two-day event began. During each of these presentations, buyers were given detailed information about the destinations as well as previews of upcoming celebrations and events that will be taking place over the next several years.
Although the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympic Games will be obvious tourist draws to the U.K. this year, VisitBritain and the ETOA are hoping that the excitement generated by these two major events will carry over and lead to increased tourism as Great Britain celebrates important milestones in history, literature and even pop culture over the next several years. For example, the region will be celebrating the anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare and the Beatles as well as a major redevelopment of the Visitor’s Center at Stonehenge.
With tourism in many parts of the U.K. showing significant growth over the last several years, organizers are optimistic that this marketplace will not only raise awareness among travel agents and tour operators from around the world but will also give these buyers insights and tips to help them better sell the U.K. to their clients. In addition, the launch of a multimillion-dollar campaign highlights what is “great” about coming to Great Britain and is designed to target the international tourist market in 2012 and beyond. By creating this opportunity to bring international buyers and U.K. suppliers together, VisitBritain and the ETOA’s ultimate goal is continuing to increase travel revenues.
Several of the agents and tour operators at the event said that selling London is never a challenge as the city practically sells itself but, as the organizers of the marketplace stressed repeatedly throughout the event, there are infinite travel opportunities in the British Isles that extend beyond London’s city limits. In fact, there are a number of fascinating tourist destinations accessible to the city creating many opportunities for agents to build on a client’s London vacation by adding a day trip or even an overnight stay in places such as Oxford, Stratford, Gretna Green or Bath.