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VisitBritain’s annual flagship travel trade event took place on May 8-10 in Harrogate, a town in North Yorkshire, England. Over two days, 25,000 one-on-one meetings were conducted between 320 U.K. suppliers and more than 250 international buyers from the U.K.’s largest inbound visitor markets.
“ExploreGB is an extremely valuable business tool, giving U.K. travel suppliers and destinations the chance to get their products in front of hundreds of top global buyers, forge international business connections and ultimately inspire more visitors to book a trip to the U.S.,” said Sally Balcombe, CEO of VisitBritain.
During the event, VisitBritain not only celebrated its 50th anniversary — complete with a visit from Queen Elizabeth thanks to Madame Tussauds — but also announced the June launch of Tourism Exchange Great Britain (TXGB), a business-to-business digital hub connecting U.K. suppliers with distributors around the world.
“Our new [TXGB] platform will connect suppliers — including new products as well as small experiential products — to distributors globally,” Balcombe said. “It’s a first for us, a first for many businesses across the U.K. and a true innovation in the U.K. [tourism] landscape.”
Several U.K. destinations also shared what visitors can expect in the upcoming year.
EnglandVisitBritain’s England director Andrew Stokes noted that more than 50% of international visitors to England only visit London, and while London is one of the world’s great cities and an important tourism driver, it’s not the only thing England has to offer. Therefore, he explained, the Discover England Fund (DEF) was set up to develop bookable products that encourage visitors to venture beyond London. As DEF completes its third and final year, more than 60 DEF projects have created thousands of new reasons to visit England.
“These projects have not only nurtured new and previously unknown products, but have also put unprecedented effort into ensuring they become key assets to the travel trade,” said Gareth Roberts, relationship manger for DEF and VisitEngland.
Some examples of projects developed by DEF are the National Parks Experience Collection with 72 new products that include joining park rangers on boat patrols in Lake Windemere or living like a Roman for the afternoon on Hadrian’s Wall; The Great West Way, a new touring route between London and Bristol that takes travelers through quintessentially English villages in the Cotswolds; and The North of England Cities Experience, a new multiday, multicity train pass that allows clients to experience exciting urban centers.
The British Tourist Authority was formed in 1969 with the aim of promoting Britain to the world, and that’s still our aim today. Since then, international tourism in this country has grown, but the essence hasn’t changed. What Britain offers in heritage, landscapes, people and welcome is unique to us, and you cannot find that anywhere else.
WalesWith the tagline “discover your epic here,” Wales’ Year of Discovery campaign highlights the diverse ways visitors can discover the land of adventure, culture and landscape, from coasteering in Pembrokeshire and flying 100 mph on the world’s fastest zipline in Bethesda to exploring more than 600 castles — the highest-concentrated collection of turrets, baileys and moats in the world.
“Obviously, discovery is a big word, and there’s a vast amount to discover in Wales,” said Rob Lewis Jones, international media relations executive for VisitWales. “So, if your interest is seeing where the poet Dylan Thomas lived and re-discovering his work, or if you want to go to the Isle of Anglesey to discover the history of our ancient ruins, or even just discovering yourself, it’s a great place to come.”
The Year of Discovery also spotlights The Wales Way, a new family of national routes —The Coastal Way, The Cambrian Way, and The North Wales Way — designed to allow visitors to venture off the beaten track and discover what makes Wales unique.
Scotland“VisitScotland is working on tackling overtourism,” said Michael McCuish, consumer PR manager for VisitScotland. “One way we’re doing that is by creating two new trails — The South West Coastal 300 and the North East 250 — in places that international visitors have not yet had the opportunity to explore.”
Scotland is also where beer-loving clients will find the very first craft brew hotel in the U.K., called Brewdog: The Doghouse. The 26-room hotel opening this year at the headquarters of Brewdog, an independent craft brewery in Aberdeenshire, will feature in-room beer taps and views of brewers at work from rooms overlooking the brewery.
In 2020, Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters will promote opportunities for clients to experience the coastline and inland waters. These will take place in both rural and urban settings and through events celebrating the important role coasts and waters played in shaping Scotland’s history and culture.
Northern Ireland“A third of all visitors get their inspiration to come to Britain because of what they see on film and television,” Balcombe said. “And Northern Ireland is where you go if you’re a fan of 'Game of Thrones' (GOT), the biggest series in the world.”
In addition to more than 26 GOT filming locations (including some that have already been designated as new tourist destinations now that the series has completed production), GOT fans can also see the 80-meter-long, hand-stitched Game of Thrones Tapestry at Ulster Museum in Belfast depicting highlights of every episode from seasons one through seven (season eight will soon be added).
This year, Northern Ireland is also celebrating the 400th anniversary of the completion of the walls at Derry/Londonderry with music and dance performances, historical and contemporary exhibitions, living archaeology demonstrations and workshops and visual arts exhibitions.
“The British Tourist Authority was formed in 1969 with the aim of promoting Britain to the world, and that’s still our aim today,” Balcombe said. “Since then, international tourism in this country has grown, but the essence hasn’t changed. What Britain offers in heritage, landscapes, people and welcome is unique to us, and you cannot find that anywhere else.”