Destination Britain and Ireland
ATN went to DEBI to see what the destinations offers for visitors
Event drives home the ‘value-for-money’ message
Last month Visit Britain and Tourism Ireland held their flagship business-to-business travel trade event in Dubai for the first time, inviting more than 80 tourism suppliers from the UK and Ireland to meet with 200 buyers from the Asia Pacific and Middle East region over a packed three-day event.
With the British pound still weak against the dollar, the British suppliers were keen to push their ‘value-for-money’ message to the industry. “The global tourism industry is slowly emerging from the recession,” said Keith Beecham from VisitBritain.
“A weaker currency results in more value for visitors, and currently Britain has a price advantage for the region compared to most currencies.”
ATN spoke with representatives from tourism boards around Britain and Ireland to find out what they had to offer visitors from the Gulf.
While visitors from the GCC are already quite familiar with London, VisitEngland is on a mission to get people out of the capital and exploring the rest of the country.
“It is becoming more of a trend to go beyond the capital especially as there are some great developments in the five-star hotel sector outside of London,” said Anke Suessmann, international manager, VisitEngland. One such property is the stunning Scarlett Hotel in Cornwall, a luxury eco-retreat situated on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean (www.scarlethotel.co.uk). VisitEngland also recommends Bath as a top pick destination.
“As an out of London getaway city, Bath is really up and coming. It is steeped in history. The Thermae Bath Spa opened a few years ago, it’s a refurbished 18th Century spa with natural hot springs and a roof top pool which overlooks Bath Abbey and the lovely countryside around,” said Suessmann.
Scotland is promoting its culinary tourism thanks to the quality of its natural produce. The International Culinary Tourism Association declared Scotland one of the most “unique” places for food and drink on the planet and 2010 is ‘Scottish Year of Food and Drink’ with food fests including Taste of Edinburgh in May (www.tasteofedinburgh.co.uk) and Foodies at the Festival in August (a culinary take on the Edinburgh Festival). Visitors to Scotland could try a specialist package such as the Islay and Whisky Coast 4-Day Tour which takes in Scotland’s finest malt whisky distilleries. (www.rabbies.com)
Wales is hosting the Ryder Cup for the first time in October and the event is expected to draw thousands of international visitors. The golf tournament is being played at the purpose-built Celtic Manor Resort in Newport; packages are available at Ryder Cup Travel Services (www.rcts.co.uk). As well as golf, Wales offers heritage with a plethora of castles to explore. Visitors can buy a three-day or a seven-day pass, and four of its castles are world heritage sites. “Visitors come to Wales through Manchester or London,” said Eirlys Thomas, head of marketing networks, Visit Wales. “For accessing the great outdoors, Wales is probably the closest to London. We have three national parks and four areas of outstanding natural beauty, all combined with a heritage backdrop.”
With Emirates Airlines offering direct flights to Newcastle in the Northeast of England, the region is promoting itself as the new ‘gateway to the UK’ for visitors from the GCC. “I think more and more people are getting turned off by Heathrow so they may be looking for somewhere new to access the UK, and Newcastle is one option. The beauty of the region is that you’re close to all the key tourist attractions within the UK so you can base yourself there and explore Edinburgh, York, the Lake District and London,” said Hayley Quarmby, PR officer, One North East. With stunning countryside such as Northumberland National Park and empty beaches, the Northeast is one of the UK’s most tranquil and unspoilt regions. A major tourist draw is Alnwick Castle - otherwise known as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films (www.alnwickcastle.com).
Ireland is experiencing a massive boom in visitor numbers from the Middle East with a 53 percent year-on-year rise in visa applications from the GCC in 2010. Visitors are attracted by the natural beauty of Ireland, said Amanda Burns, Tourism Ireland, general manager, Middle East and Asia. “For GCC nationals it’s about the scenery and the landscape, The chance to get away from the blistering heat in the summer months to the cooler climes of Ireland is a real draw.”
Top natural attractions include the Ring of Kerry – Ireland’s most scenic drive offering waterfalls, an old abbey, picturesque villages and the wilderness of Kerry’s mountain range; and the Cliffs of Moher which are so stunning they were recently declared one of the finalists in a contest to find the world’s new ‘seven wonders of nature’. www.discoverireland.ae