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ON MARCH 02 – 03, MORE THAN 830 DELEGATES DESCENDED ON THE SEASIDE RESORT OF BRIGHTON FOR EXPLOREGB, VISITBRITAIN'S FLAGSHIP ANNUAL TRADE EVENT, HELD FOR THE THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR.

During the two-day workshop, at Brighton Centre, an average of 40,000 pre-scheduled meetings took place between more than 400 hosted international buyers from 40 countries and some 400 British and Irish suppliers and destinations, according to Carol Dray, commercial director, VisitBritain, making the event the largest to date.

Recognising the value in experiencing tourism products first-hand, VisitBritain also offered international buyers the opportunity to embark on familiarisation trips across the country, showcasing the best of different regions and the diversity of its product.

Steve Ridgway, the new chairman of the organisation, as of April 01, was also introduced and it was revealed that the 2018 edition of ExploreGB will be held in Newcastle.

The event served as a platform for VisitBritain and regional tourism authorities to disclose the successes of 2016 and unveil strategies for the current year.

OPTIMISM ACROSS THE UK

According to Clare Mullin, marketing director, VisitBritain, the UK is expecting to welcome some 40 million tourists by 2020, continuing the upward trajectory seen in recent years.

In 2016, the country welcomed 37.3 million inbound arrivals, yet spending dropped to GBP22.2 billion (EUR25.9 billion) as tourists increasingly seek value for money.

Mullin also outlined the country’s cultural attractions as the primary motive for visiting the UK, cited by 44 percent of all visitors.

Adding to this, Richard Nicholls, head, research and forecasting, VisitBritain noted that while the number of holidaymakers remained stable at 13.8 million, an influx of travellers visiting friends and family was observed, up 10 percent year-on-year in 2016.

Looking to this year, Nicholls highlighted along with a forecasted surge in spending, partly due to the value of its currency, the UK is expecting to achieve a jump in arrivals, supported by a four percent year-on-year increase in seat capacity on inbound flights.

ENGLAND CELEBRATES ITS LITERATURE

Laura Dewar, head, England public relations, VisitEngland, disclosed that this year has been labelled as the Year of Literary Heroes, marking the anniversaries of a multitude of literary moments.

Following research carried out by the organisation, interest in this niche segment was revealed by the fact that more than half of tourists would visit a literary attraction, while 24 percent have already done so whilst on holiday.

Furthermore, in a bid to encourage travellers to venture out of London, which currently collects 54 percent of all tourism spend, VisitEngland is showcasing key destinations in coastal and rural England.

RECORD SUCCESS FOR NORTHERN IRELAND

In 2016, Northern Ireland achieved its best year ever, with revenue reaching GBP527 million (EUR615.9 million), a year-on-year jump of nine percent, as revealed by Siobhan McManamy, director, markets, Tourism Ireland. Furthermore, the number of visitors soared six percent, to two million.

Some key achievements for Belfast in particular, include being named Trendiest City 2016 by European MICE Awards as well as Titanic Belfast winning World’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2016 at the World Travel Awards.

In terms of accommodation, the capital is expected to welcome more than 1,200 keys by 2018, while rooms in Derry-Londonderry are set to soar 35 percent.

SCOTLAND HIGHLIGHTS HISTORY, HERITAGE AND ARCHAEOLOGY

Linda McAllister, senior marketing manager, VisitScotland, revealed that this year has been named as the Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology, as Scotland aims to capitalise on the country’s rich history, which is the main motivator for 32 percent of visitors.

Along with the promotion of traditional music events and cultural festivals such as The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and Highland Games, VisitScotland is also placing emphasis on genealogy and ancestral tourism, which accounts for around 213,000 trips to the country each year.

WALES UNVEILS ITS YEAR OF LEGENDS

On the back of success of 2016’s Year of Adventure, during which, Wales welcomed a 12 percent boost in international visitors along with a 44 percent surge in expenditure in day visitors, Rob Jones, media relations executive, VisitWales, unveiled this year as the Year of Legends. As part of this initiative, VisitWales is placing a great focus on its unique culture, heritage experiences as well as vibrant events and festivals.

Thanks to a GBP85 million (EUR98 million) investment from the European Union to develop a range of destinations, tourism is forecast to increase 10 percent by 2020.

BRIGHTON’S EVENTS CALENDAR EXPECTED TO DRAW IN VISITORS

This summer will see the launch of the Brighton and Hove’s new bikeshare scheme, with 400 bicycles set to be located at 40 hubs across the city, as described by Ruth Allsop, public relations and marketing executive, VisitBrighton.

For the coming year, the organisation will place a focus on the city’s food and drink offerings, as well as its extensive outdoor calendar, climaxing in May, the city’s festival month.