Amazing moments at ExploreGB

From latest attractions and events to the launch of a new campaign, several significant announcements were made at this year’s ExploreGB event held at Liverpool, which brought forth up to 320 hosted international travel buyers from 40 countries By Rituparna Chatterjee


From latest attractions and events to the launch of a new campaign, several significant announcements were made at this year’s ExploreGB event held at Liverpool, which brought forth up to 320 hosted international travel buyers from 40 countries By Rituparna Chatterjee

The city of Liverpool was the venue this year for VisitBritain’s annual flagship event, ExploreGB. Held from March 3-4, 2016 at ACC Liverpool, the event served as a perfect platform for British and Irish tourism suppliers and destinations to network and transact business with up to 320 hosted international travel buyers from 40 countries. ExploreGB consisted of a two-day workshop with more than 30,000 pre-scheduled, one-to-one appointments. Post that, the international delegates were taken on familiarisation trips around Great Britain to showcase the tourism potential of the destination. ExploreGB kicked-off with the inaugural ceremony wherein Joss Croft, Britain marketing director, VisitBritain; Joe Anderson, mayor of Liverpool; and Chris Brown, director of Marketing Liverpool shared certain highlights on Great Britain, especially Liverpool and the North of England. Besides, there was also a live performance by singer Marc Kenny. Speaking at the inauguration, Croft stated, “Tourism is one of our fastest growing export industries and also one of the most globally competitive, and ExploreGB is an extremely valuable business tool that helps us stay competitive. It allows British travel suppliers and local destinations to get their tourism products and services in front of international buyers, forge valuable global business connections and ultimately inspire more visitors to come and explore all of our nations and regions.”


As for the expected footfall from oversees markets, Croft mentioned, “We are expecting 36.7 million visits in 2016 and a spend of almost £ 23 billion by overseas visitors, which will be up by 4.2 per cent on 2015. These figures show that we are on track to realise our ambition to grow international visits to Britain by more than 20 per cent to 42 million visits by 2020, which could see an additional £ 4.5 billion in visitor spend.” This growth will be driven across all regions through various initiatives, Croft highlighted. For instance, VisitBritain has launched its largest campaign for 2016, #OMGB GREAT Britain – Home of Amazing Moments, to promote memorable moments visitors can experience only on a trip to Britain. Presently, the campaign is running across Brazil, France, Germany and the US and will be introduced in other markets as well. “This campaign shows people the experiences, culture and countryside available across Britain so as to inspire them to want to be a part of it and book a trip to come and discover their own amazing moments. It also invites people to share their amazing Britain moments using #OMGB,” explained Croft.


Also speaking at the inauguration, Anderson pointed out the diverse tourism offerings of Liverpool. He stated, “We have a diverse range of experiences to offer here from cathedrals to football clubs to universities, among others. We are proud of our infrastructure and architecture.” Highlighting the need to open up the tourism potential of the North of England, Brown stated that the real strength of this region lies in its architectural, historical, cultural, etc diversity, offered within a very compact environment. Some of the attractions he mentioned include Lake District, Cumbria; Chester Rows, Cheshire; Blackpool, Lancashire; Alnwick Castle, Northumberland; Saltaire, West Yorkshire; Albert Dock, Liverpool; Leeds, Yorkshire, among others.

Brighton would be the  venue for ExploreGB 2017 to be held from March 2-3. This was revealed during this year’s event.


India focus

One of the highlights of this year’s ExploreGB event was the pre-scheduled, one-to-one appointments held across both the days. During that, several British and Irish tourism suppliers and destinations expressed their interest in the India market. For instance, Abbey Scotland is a destination management company with offices in Edinburgh and Dublin. “We mainly cater to the leisure segment – groups (coach tourism) and individuals (small families, couples). Some of our major markets include Germany, France, Italy, Spain, North America, Norway, Sweden, the Middle East, among others. India is one of the emerging markets and we are interested in looking into that. At the VisitScotland expo being held in Edinburgh this year, we are expecting Indian tour operators to participate,” stated David Cunningham, accommodation contracting manager, Abbey Scotland.


Sharing a similar viewpoint, Robin Tjolle, chief executive, Cotswolds Tourism Partnership opined, “Cotswolds is one of the most peaceful areas of England for oversees visitors. We have been popular among oversees markets including India for quite sometime. We have products that suit families, young couples and anyone seeking a countryside, heritage break. India is a growing market and we want to have a much bigger share of it. We are working with a lot of Indian tour operators so that we are present in their touring schedules.”


DestinationBristol is also looking to focus on the India market. John Hirst, chief executive, DestinationBristol stated, “We are receiving a growing number of a lot of different nationalities. India is a big market and we are not working as much closely as we would like to. It is time to promote Bristol in the India market. The beauty of Bristol is that you get so many experiences here – from the beautiful buildings to the zoo, etc. Bristol can also be used as a gateway to visit other destinations like Wales, etc. So I would recommend a three day stay to experience everything within this city.”

‘We have to improve the story on the visa by investing in the visa process, working with the travel trade to clear their understanding of what we require’

Christopher Rodrigues CBE, Chairman, VisitBritain

What is your focus for the India market?

201604etw76India is an important market for us. The demographics of India, the growth of the middle class, the propensity of Indians to travel, the historic connection to the UK means that it is an important market for us. We would like to have half a million visits in two-three years and we are quite close to achieving that. In 2014, we received 390,000 visitors which was up by four per cent. 93 per cent of the people who apply for a visa from Mumbai get it within 15 days or less. There are other states where it is true that the reject rate is higher but the applications are weaker as well. However, we can still do better. The travel trade exaggerates the visa problem. But we are also noticing that the best people in the trade understand the visa requirements and they don’t let people who fail to meet the financial requirement apply. We have to improve the story on the visa by investing in the visa process, working with the travel trade to clear their understanding of what we require, among others. Our ambassador is keen to work with our home office to improve processing.

What are the emerging markets for Britain?

China is an important market for us and we hope to receive half a million Chinese visitors by 2020. Korea has grown quite significantly as a market since air coverage has improved. One of the great advantages of India is that Etihad Airways and Emirates are committed to this market and we are big partners with them. The Indian VFR market is more dispersed, which is great for us. Brazil was a very fast growing market but the Brazilian Real has put that on pressure.

What new initiatives are being undertaken to promote Britain?

We have launched the #OMGB campaign (digital and above the line) in countries like the US, Germany, Brazil and France. We are still awaiting the final news from the government on our budgets. We have good budgets to support the promotion of English destinations oversees. This campaign might not be launched in India anytime soon and also we need the right amazing moments to motivate each country.

Upcoming Events

  • England’s natural beauty is on display as Great Britain celebrates the ‘Year of the GREAT English Garden’ – timed to coincide with the 300th anniversary of renowned English landscape gardener, Lancelot (Capability) Brown
  • Wales’ ‘Year of Adventure’ is offering up adrenalin pumping activities as well as culinary and literary adventures
  • Northern Ireland is showcasing best of its cuisine with the ‘Year of Food and Drink’
  • Scotland is putting spotlight on its past, present and future by celebrating its ‘Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design’
  • London – punk – 40th year and the new Tate opens in June. Highly anticipated play ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ to debut on the West End in July
  • 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth
  • The Spice Girls’ 20th anniversary.

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