Late last month at the Ascot Racecourse in England, during VisitBritain’s flagship, brand-new event, ExploreGB 2015, which put 260 hosted international travel buyers from 40 countries eye-to-eye with Great British and Irish tourism suppliers and destinations, the media sat down for a lesson in English Literature.
Names such as Shakespeare, Bronte, Potter, Christie and Dahl were thrown around…and all of us journalists were listening gleefully. You’ll want to listen up as well, because those names are a big part of the 2016 celebrations throughout Great Britain. You’ll perk up your literary hound clients’ ears with news of Shakespeare 400, which celebrates the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a range of new exhibitions in Stratford-upon-Avon, including a new immersive theatrical experience at the Royal Shakespeare Company. Next year is also the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s birth (did you know that the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth, Yorkshire in north England was the Bronte’s family home?); the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter—recommend a visit to the World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere, 90 minutes from Manchester by car; the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth—tell clients to take a detour to the Little Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay, where Dahl was baptized; and the 125th anniversary of Agatha Christie’s birth—the annual Agatha Christie Festival held in September in Christie’s hometown of Torquay in southwest England is a great bet. And if your clients are true literary aficionados, tell them to skip on over to Hay on Way while they are in Wales, because they’ll find about 39 used bookstores, some on castle grounds. For more information on literary explorations, visit visitbritain.com/en/Things-to-do/Culture/Writers-and-poets.html.
So did you notice how I’ve just mentioned several places that are not in London? Hope so, because that is what VisitBritain has been trying to push for a couple of years now—that yes, London is great, but there’s more to Great Britain than a fantastic cosmopolitan city. In fact, one of the most interesting bits of information mentioned during the several press conferences the media attended during ExploreGB 2015 was that many people didn’t associate Great Britain—which, incidentally, had a second successive year and broke all records for visitor numbers in 2014—with natural beauty. In fact, Sally Balcombe, VisitBritain’s CEO, mentioned during a “Selling Britain” press conference, that in an independent survey of travelers the tourism board conducted, Great Britain came in 20th for natural beauty. “That means,” Balcombe pointed out, “that people don’t understand it as well. People understand London, Stonehenge, Oxford, but not the natural beauty.” With that in mind, VisitBritain launched the Countryside is GREAT campaign this past January. The 3-year initiative hopes to improve international perceptions of the British countryside and inspire travelers to visit destinations outside of Great Britain’s major cities. For travelers who would like to get their toes wet, so to speak, 2016 will celebrate the 300th anniversary of Capability Brown’s birth, a grand landscape architect who built more than 170 gardens in Britain, including Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, north England, and Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England. So travelers can be close to the major cities, but get a glimpse into Britain’s stunning natural beauty, and for those who’ve been outside the cities, there’s no denying that Britain does indeed offer glorious natural beauty. For more information on Great Britain’s natural beauty, go to visitbritain.com/en/Things-to-do/Countryside.
VisitBritain is also pushing its cultural side, of course—those aforementioned literary celebrations speak to that, but Balcombe noted during the ExploreGB 2015 press conference that “there is a massive interest in film tourism” as well. She mentioned “Paddington” and the new Bond film, “Spectre,” and there’s also the new film of “Tarzan,” which will be released in 2016, and which has been filmed in several British locations such as Windsor Great Park, about an hour from London, and Dinorwig Quarry in Llanberis, in north Wales. VisitScotland, too is ramping up its film and TV locations, and has created an “Outlander” microsite—visitscotland.com/outlander—where you can view a map to discover the sites in Scotland that double for the fictional land of “Outlander” as viewed on the STARZ TV adaptation of the 8-book series of the same name. For more information on film locations, go to visitbritain.com/en/Things-to-do/Culture/Britain-on-film.html.
I mentioned earlier that Great Britain saw a rise in visitors, so the fact that new hotels are popping up all over comes as no surprise. To that end, we’ve got a sprinkling of new hotels around Great Britain that you’ll want to know about.
• The 359-guestroom and -suite Mondrian London at Sea Containers opened in September on the banks of the River Thames. mondrianlondon.com
• Shangri-La at The Shard is the city’s first-ever high-rise hotel. It offers 202 guestrooms and suites, all with a view, that are among the largest in London. shangri-la.com/london
• For more London openings check out the slide below.
• The 153-bedroom, four-star Titanic Hotel, Liverpool opened this past summer. titanichotelliverpool.com
• The 133-room, four-star Hotel Football in Manchester is owned by former Manchester United teammates and is set to open this month. hotelfootball.com
• Hotel Gotham will open in Manchester next month with 60 rooms spread over seven floors. hotelgotham.co.uk
• In Wye Valley, in the Wales/England border, there’s a stylish bunkhouse that has opened, which includes an interior tubular slide that guests can use to slide down from floor to floor. Visitors can hire canoes, kayaks, bikes and Vespas from the Wye Valley Canoe Centre. This converted chapel is a great venue for large groups with 14 beds (sleeping 2 to 22). wyevalleycanoes.co.uk
• The first luxury hotel within St Andrews’ Old Town in Scotland opened in April 2014: Hotel du Vin St Andrews. It offers 22 spacious rooms, and at its heart is the “restaurant with rooms” concept. hotelduvin.com
• MV Windsor Castle is a 25-bedroom boatique or floating hotel that will open in spring 2016 in Leith, Scotland. royalyachtbritannia.co.uk
• The 11-bedroom Cockliffe Country House Hotel in Central England, is a 17th-century former farmhouse set in the heart of rural Nottingham. The property, which was acquired by Heritage Estates, will embark on an extensive renovation; phase one is set to be complete by next month. cch-hotel.co.uk
A Couple of Notes
Next year, by the way, ExploreGB will take place in Liverpool, England. For more on Liverpool, check out Recommend’s managing editor’s Onsite Review: Liverpool. For more information on Great Britain, visit trade.visitbritain.com. And keep in mind that VisitBritain will launch a newly improved BritAgent in late March, with increased interaction, engagement and rewards.