According to VisitBritain, for U.S. travelers headed to Europe, the UK is the number one destination and with good reason according to Gavin Landry, VisitBritain’s director of the Americas.

“Britain’s vibrant cities, breathtaking countryside, its food and drink offering and rich cultural heritage are just some of the passions that are inspiring travelers to book a trip,” Landry says.

With its high ranking among U.S. travelers, as well as its consistent growth in visitor numbers (2017 saw a 13 percent increase in U.S. travelers in the UK), Great Britain continues to court the American market with a slew of new attractions, events, hotels and more set to debut throughout 2019.

New Experiences and Events
“Britain is packed full of amazing experiences year-round and 2019 is going to be no exception. From sporting events to literary celebrations, from music festivals to new gallery openings, visitors to Britain during 2019 are in for a cultural extravaganza,” Landry says.

The Scotch Whisky Experience Great Britain
The Scotch Whisky Experience. (Photo credit: Audrey Bergner and Sam Jeffrey)

While there are more than enough annual festivals and unique celebrations—i.e. a pancake tossing race in Buckinghamshire—to attract visitors year after year, 2019 will usher in new experiences and events, further enticing travelers to head to Britain. For example, whisky lovers can make their way to Edinburgh, Scotland, where they’ll find The Scotch Whisky Experience. For over 30 years, this interactive exhibit has brought together 90 percent of the Scotch whisky industry to showcase the liquor and its history through a variety of tours, events, and tastings. In 2019, the line-up of bespoke VIP and luxury experiences include fine dining in the World’s Largest Whisky Collection, Super-Premium Whisky Tastings, and a “Blend Your Own” Whisky Masterclass. 

For a musical blast from the past, The Spice Girls is setting out on a reunion tour—Spice Up Your Life—this summer as a 4-piece group (minus Victoria Beckham). The first show kicks off on June 1 at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium and concludes on the 15th at Wembley Stadium in London. On the heels of the December 2018 release of the “Mary Poppins Returns” movie, the classic musical “Mary Poppins” is also making its return to the stage this fall. Playing at the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End, the same theater where it first premiered in 2004, “Mary Poppins” tickets are currently on sale.

History buffs will also especially appreciate a 2019 visit to Britain as several important anniversaries will be celebrated this year, including the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday, and the 900th anniversary of Leeds Castle, plus the marking of British Airways centenary.

London’s West End. (Photo credit: Tristan Vince)

Limited-Time Museum Exhibits
Fans of fashion, art, and all things royal family related, will find several special museum exhibits that pique their interests in Great Britain this year. London’s V&A Museum will welcome two fashion exhibits with Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams making its debut this month, and an exhibit dedicated to 1960s fashion icon Mary Quant launching in April. Travelers in London can also feast their eyes on the works of Van Gogh March 27 through Aug. 11 in an exhibit at the Tate Britain that brings together 40 of the artist’s most famous works. Curated with the aim of examining Van Gogh’s relationship with British art, literature, and culture that inspired him, this will be the largest exhibition of his work in the UK in nearly a decade. Keith Haring fanatics will also find a special treat in Liverpool as the Tate Liverpool will host the first major UK exhibition of Keith Haring, where more than 70 art works inspired by underground club culture, pop art, and graffiti will be displayed. Lastly, those with an affinity for the British royal family can pay a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which will be hosting A Royal Wedding: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, an exhibition that will display the wedding outfits of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. This exhibit will be on display June 14-Oct. 6.

Although only one month of 2019 has gone by, Landry already notes “it has been great to see people getting out and exploring the huge variety of attractions and places of interest on offer across Britain.”

Great Britain The DogHouse
Rendering of The DogHouse craft beer hotel in Scotland.

New Accommodations
As travelers make their way around Great Britain, they will also find a variety of new accommodation options, from well-known international brands to small boutique hotels. For example, this spring will see the opening of a Hard Rock Hotel in London with 1,000 guestrooms and suites, two bars, and a Hard Rock Cafe. The property will open in the conversion of the existing Cumberland Hotel and pay tribute, through its memorabilia collection, to musical legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Madonna, and more. Those looking for a more intimate and unique experience can check into Manchester’s Stock Exchange Hotel, which will also open this spring. The historic Stock Exchange building is being redeveloped into a five-star boutique hotel featuring 40 guestrooms and suites, two presidential suites, and two fine dining restaurants, plus private dining in the wine cellars. Meanwhile, beer enthusiasts can look forward to a stay at Scotland’s The DogHouse, which will be the world’s first craft beer hotel when it opens this spring. The immersive craft beer hotel will feature 26 guestrooms overlooking the brewery with beer taps in each room, as well as a built-in shower beer fridge.

Advice for Travel Advisors
With so much to see and do throughout Britain this year, Landry has some key advice for travel advisors. “We strongly encourage travelers to explore beyond London and the other major cities,” he says. “The UK’s nations and regions are bursting with both iconic attractions and wonderfully undiscovered experiences, and it is amazingly easy to experience multiple destinations in one trip.”

Landry also notes, “With more than 2,500 railway stations across Britain, the rail system is very convenient and well-connected. Travelers starting their trip in London can reach Wales in under two hours and Edinburgh in Scotland in under four. There are also many local and regional airports across Britain, which transport visitors to destinations such as Cornwall in England, Inverness in Scotland and Anglesey in Wales, within just a few hours.”

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