The latest news from UKinbound (of which GTO is now a member)…
Increase in Holiday Makers from Abroad
With the latest tourism figures just in, it looks like the UK is seeing a real increase in holiday makers from abroad this year. Having spoken to a number of tour operator and accommodation suppliers who are members, numbers are most certainly up, and more importantly spend is up too. It’s also interesting that a large proportion of this increase is from visitors outside of Europe and America. Clearly the decline in the pound has had an effect on the numbers of those wanting to come to the UK for their holidays, but this provides us with a terrific opportunity to show the world how great an offering we have.
As the political uncertainties continue both at home and abroad, it is good to know that visitors seem undeterred by concerns both foreign and domestic and are keeping calm and travelling on!
UKinbound remains busy as ever. We have run a number of seminars this year on a variety of markets, with fellow members and Visit Britain giving advice on how to attract international visitors from GCC (Gulf countries) and South East Asia. There are more interesting seminars to come, including one focused on the all-important Retail sector on the 27th June, with further events scheduled later this year, on our No 1 market, USA, and our No 1 selling point, Culture.
Looking forward we are hosting a networking event in Glasgow on 9th May at The Shilling Brewing Company, and in London on 18th May at The Tank and Paddle. The UKinbound Summer Ball on 22nd June at the stunning Hurlingham Club is a fabulous opportunity to entertain clients.
The last few weeks have been as eventful as ever, as we continue the whirlwind of various trade shows and indeed our very own Convention, which took place in Plymouth in February. The Convention was extremely successful seeing over 230 of our members from all over the UK converge on Plymouth to help raise their own profile and develop important contacts from across the inbound tourism industry at the three-day event. The Convention is a great mix of business opportunities, seminars, keynote speeches, networking and rounded off with the our annual awards, which this year took place at the Guildhall in Plymouth. Our last day was devoted to a series of fam trips, which enabled us to see the varied and interesting attractions and sights in and around this maritime city. The city has recently benefited from over £35m in investments, which will include new hotels, as part of Plymouth’s preparation for the celebrations in 2020 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. We were also delighted to announce the location for our 2018 Convention, which will be held in Cardiff.
The end of 2016
Another World Travel Market has come to pass – and what a great three days. At the biggest international travel trade event of the year and, with 55 members covering all sectors of the inbound tourism industry, the UKinbound and Visit Britain stand certainly saw its fair share of the 50,000 visitors who come each year. One of the biggest advantages of such a large show with over 5,000 exhibitors is that you get to talk to such a wide variety of people from all over the UK and the World.
A good number of UKinbound’s members, have seen increased bookings over the latter half of the summer. This compares favourably with what we were seeing earlier on this summer, when many of our members reported a reduction in visitor numbers. The weakness in the pound certainly had much to do with this, with increased demand especially from our European neighbours. Particularly from more price conscious countries, a dip in the pound can certainly draw dividends from overseas markets. Of course, having a great product to sell, knowing your market and having links to those markets also goes a long way!
Not everyone has seen such a positive result this year. The fear of terrorism is still a big factor in visitors holidaying elsewhere, as does some possible ill feeling from the fallout of BREXIT. And, for some members, French visitors continue to decline, which is a concern as they are traditionally one of our top three markets.
One market that certainly seems to be bouncing back is the US. This is particularly encouraging as American visitors tend to spend a good deal more than most nations and, in an election year when supposedly Americans ‘don’t travel’, this is very encouraging indeed.
We have two end of year events. Firstly, a networking at Ripleys Believe It Or Not on 8th December – also our Christmas party. The General Meeting at Amba Hotel Marble Arch on 12th December will see a new board announced, so exciting stuff coming up.
Gearing up for Next Year
As we come to the end of summer, looking back it’s certainly been an eventful few months. It may well be too early yet to see what effect BREXIT has had for UKinbound tourism. There will clearly be some benefit from a decline in the pound, but concerns about “Welcome” and wider global issues of security, will also have an impact. We will certainly be closely monitoring the impact on our members in the weeks and months ahead.
Gearing up for next year essentially means the travel trade season starts again in earnest this month. UKinbound are hosting 10 events in September and October, and will of course be exhibiting at the largest of all travel trade events in the UK – World Travel Market in November.
The beginning of September saw the quarterly General Meeting, which was held at the rather magnificent Hampton Court Palace, courtesy of Historic Royal Palaces. We then took 30 tour operators to Northern Ireland for two days as part of our Discover programme. Staying in the sumptuous Galgorm Resort and Spa in Ballymena 30 minutes from Belfast, tour operators had the opportunity to soak up the history of Hillsborough Castle, the beauty of the Gobbins, and the mystery of the Game of Thrones locations. October will see another Discover event, this time in Glasgow between 16th and 18th October, bringing suppliers from all over this vibrant city to meet key buyers from our membership. As we all know, tourism is a business built on relationships and there is nothing better than actually meeting people face-to-face and experiencing a venue or attraction at first hand.
We will be hosting two such fam trips this autumn with two of our newest members: British Airways i360 in Brighton on 29 September followed by Bombay Sapphire Distillery on 24th October, both exciting and interesting places to go.
On the networking front, we are bringing together over a 100 members at various venues in September and October, including The Charing Cross Theatre courtesy of made and Ask Italian in Liverpool.
Two seminars coming up are Spotlight on China on 7th October, in association with VisitBritain and sponsored by made, and a Business Visits and Events Seminar on 26th October also with VisitBritain. Both of these events are open to non-members, so please email me below if you are interested, or indeed would like to enquire about membership. We will also be at World Travel Market, so come and say hello.
The Value of Incoming Groups
The UK is arguably the greatest country in the world, and no matter where you are, it’s jam-packed full of the most amazing and interesting places to visit. People from around the world want to come here, and with 36 million visitors a year, spending over £22 billion, you can say we are doing pretty well. But of course, we don’t want it to stop there and that’s where UKinbound fits in.
With nearly 40 years in the inbound tourism business, UKinbound actually began life as the British Incoming Tour Operators’ Assocation (BITOA) back in 1977. Fast forward 39 years and we now have over 360 members right across the inbound tourism industry, including tour operators, attractions, hotels, destination marketing organisations, transport suppliers and publications – you name it, we’re there.
UKinbound is a not for profit organisation, here to help promote our members’ best interests, whether that’s lobbying Government, raising the profile of the different regions of the UK or holding events for our members to develop contacts and raise their profile in one of the most dynamic industries right across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In future columns, I will explore more about the challenges of serving incoming visitors, especially groups, and how UKinbound supports this sector. We are active around the country with regular events and our next two-day ‘Discover’ event is Discover Shakespeare’s England from 10th to 11th July.
As ever, June and July are very busy months for us, with our Annual Summer Ball held this year at the historic and rather sumptuous Honourable Artillery Company in Moorgate, followed by our seminar on luxury travel on 14th July, held in conjunction with VisitBritain, in the rather grand surroundings of St James’ London.
Each month, we highlight a familiarisation trip for our members, and in June we featured the stunning Stanbrook Abbey in Worcestershire. And as if this wasn’t enough, we have regular networking events booked in; the next is on 21st July within the beautiful surroundings of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.
Welcoming and Serving Inbound Visitors
One of the talking points for this column is to explore the challenges in welcoming and serving inbound visitors, especially the groups market. Following the EU Referendum vote on June 23 and the win for the Leave campaign, it is even more important that we stress the UK tourism industry is open for business and eager to welcome groups wherever they come from. Recent media monitoring from around the world has found that maybe in the short term, we could well see an increase in visitors due to the weaker pound. However, the vote for BREXIT does raise some negative views and concerns for visiting the UK, and it is to allay some of these concerns that we need to work hard to prove that we are as happy as ever to see visitors from across the globe and the EU.
With two thirds of visitors coming from the EU it seems even more desirable to help promote the whole of the UK as a destination that welcomes ‘everybody’. Indeed, it is part of UKinbound’s remit to grow regional knowledge of tourism products and services across the UK, bringing together local suppliers and industry buyers. Which is why we will be taking tour operators to Shakespeare’s England, Northern Ireland and Glasgow this summer and autumn.
I would like to say a huge well done to GTO’s UK Group Travel Awards for their amazing night at Park Plaza Riverbank London, especially as nine of our members – London & Partners, Lucketts Travel, Virgin Trains, Planet Hollywood, National Trust, Encore Tickets, Hampton Court Palace, Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, and Bletchley Park all won awards!
Seeing as August is the time when many of us are taking our holidays, our events take a short break too. However, in September we soon get back up and running with our General Meeting at Hampton Court Palace on 5th September, quickly followed by Discover Northern Ireland running over three days from 6th to 8th September. Having had a short breather, we head to Liverpool and to one of our members, Ask Italian, for a member’s networking event on 22nd September.
For more information on our events, please email email@example.com
Business Development and Membership Manager