Welcoming the world to Harrogate

More than 250 international travel buyers from 31 countries met up with more than 320 UK tourism suppliers at the Harrogate Convention Centre in the north of England. Attendees benefited from seminars on innovations in tourism, experienced the latest in British food and drink, as well as boosted their knowledge of the UK as a tourist destination through networking events. Following and preceding the massive travel trade meet, buyers were hosted on fam trips around the island nation.



Now in its fifth year, ExploreGB has previously been held in NewcastleGateshead, Brighton, Liverpool and Ascot.

Sally Balcombe, VisitBritain/VisitEngland, CEO, said in her welcome speech: “ExploreGB is an extremely valuable business tool, giving travel suppliers and destinations the chance to get their products in front of hundreds of top global buyers, forge international business connections and ultimately inspire more visitors to book a trip to the UK.

“2019 is a big year for sport in Britain. We've got the ICC Cricket World Cup taking place in May through July, that's a very big thing for markets like India and Australia. In July, Liverpool will play host to the 2019 Netball World Cup and in York, a thousand cyclists from 75 countries will come together for the Yorkshire 2019 UCI Road World Championships this September.

“We also celebrate big screen and television – this is a really big driver for tourism, about a third of all visits to Britain are because of what visitors see on television and film. Visitors can go to Highclere Castle and Hampshire, which are the settings of the upcoming Downtown Abbey film and television series. And, of course, Northern Ireland is where you go if you are a Game of Thrones fan.

“It's the year of Discovery Wales: people can explore a land of culture, adventure and landscapes. In Scotland, the opening of the new V & A museum in Dundee is a world-class attraction. Across the whole country we've got new accommodation, opening new products, unrivalled cuisine and London now ranks again as the number one city in the world in the TripAdvisor rankings.”

Tourism is worth £127 billion to the UK economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth across its nations and regions.



Yorkshire is home to England’s most stunning countryside: North York Moors National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Peak District National Park.

Welcome to Yorkshire commercial director, Peter Dodd, said: “Yorkshire now has more visitors than ever before, with 216 million visits every year – more than all the Walt Disney theme parks worldwide. Recent figures from the Sheffield Hallam University Business School reveal that tourism adds £9 billion to the county's economy each year.

“Yorkshire now is very much the home of cycling. After Tour de France in 2014, the county is seeing many visitors taking cycling holidays and Welcome to Yorkshire Cycling with Visit England and the Discovery England fund is offering perfect cycling breaks for all abilities. We're working with over 80 global travel trade, bringing international cycling tourists to Yorkshire. This September Yorkshire will host the 2019 UCI Road World Championships.

“We have a wealth of accommodation, from beautiful homes to stunning luxury hotels. Grantley Hall is just one of the latest products highlighted. And getting into the county of York is very easy, two hours from London, three regional airports and a major port - Port of Hull.”

“Yorkshire boasts nine top racecourses. We have a rich heritage: we have spectacular heritage houses like Castle Howard, the location for many TV and film projects. There are also numerous other castles and the splendid York Minster, two Unesco World Heritage sites, and Studley Royal Water Garden.

“Bradford is the world's first-ever Unesco city of film. It has a long history associated with film and filmmaking dating back to the birth of cinema.

“We also boast over 7,000 places to eat and drink, including five Michelin-starred restaurants.

“We have a wealth of arts and culture including the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, home to pieces by Damien Hirst and Henry Moore and other internationally renowned dance and theatre production companies, including the Northern Ballet Phoenix Dance. Famous museums include York's National Railway Museum, the National Science and Media Museum, and for those for a knack for literary history, the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth and more.”



Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland welcomed 4.9 million visitors in 2017 and generated a total revenue of £926 million, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that Northern Ireland has plans to open 10,000 new hotel rooms with an investment of £500 million by 2020.

The tourism product includes 26 filming locations for Game of Thrones, the Titanic city of Belfast, Royal County Down golf course and the walled city of Derry/Londonderry, which celebrated 400 years of the walls.

Aoife Fee, business solutions manager, Tourism Northern Ireland, says: “Killeavy Castle has now been restored will open this month – it offers excellent conference and banqueting space as well four state rooms, while the coach house has another 45 rooms. The Salthouse Hotel – an eco-friendly, 24-bedroom hotel, which will have its own wind turbine, will open in heart of the popular Causeway Coastal Route this year. Hillsborough Castle is a key site to visit, and so is the Unesco World Heritage site – Giant’s Causeway. The Gibbons offers jaw-dropping scenery.”

Meanwhile, immersive experiences in Northern Ireland include Scullion Hurls, a great place to learn about the traditional Irish game of hurling, the fastest game on grass, and see how the hurls are made. “It makes for a good group activity,” says Fee.

On the golfing front, the 148th Open will be played at Royal Portrush from July 14 to 19, marking a historic return to Northern Ireland after nearly 70 years.

Wales – The Year of Discovery 2019 in Wales will build on the destination’s three previous themes (Year of the Sea, Year of Legends and Year of Adventure) and emphasise that Wales is alive with events and activities. 2019’s Year of Discovery will encourage visitors to not only discover Wales but also themselves through the wealth of attractions, adventures and experiences Wales has to offer.

The Wales Way will remain a key focus for 2019. Launched towards the end of 2018, The Wales Way is a group of three national touring routes that cross the country’s most epic landscapes, showcasing its fascinating history, coastlines and attractions. The routes will help position Wales as a destination for experience-seeking travellers, willing to explore off-the-beaten track locations along The North Wales Way, The Cambrian Way and The Coastal Way, all year round.

“Cardiff, capital of Wales, could be a day visit from London, it’s just two hours away by train,” says Rob Lewis Jones, international media relations executive, Visit Wales.

Scotland – Meanwhile, Scotland has announced 2020 as the Year of Coasts and Waters, to highlight its beautiful lochs and extended coastline. The big news this year is the upcoming launch of the only Victoria & Albert museum outside of London, in the Unesco City of design - Dundee.

Everyone knows that Scotland has a long and impressive history of distilling and boasts the world’s only single-malt trail. It will also open the UK’s first craft beverage hotel later this year.

While it is very well known for its beverages, Scotland is also a family-friendly destination. From Harry Potter to Peter Pan, Scotland’s Storybook Trail has been created to celebrate the country’s association with children’s literature. Known as the host venue for the G8 summit of world leaders in 2005 and golf’s 2014 Ryder Cup, Gleneagles includes a five-star luxury hotel, three championship golf courses and an award-winning spa. The hotel has recently appointed a Playground Planner to help families with smaller children to make the most of the 850-acre estate. Scotland is also home to the UK’s first and the world’s most northerly Dark Sky Park, parks where the night sky can be enjoyed without any light pollution.

Scotland is the home of golf and features lots of lesser known golf courses apart from St Andrews, the golf course where the sport was born. Due to the stunning natural beauty of the highlands and islands, the country has often been featured in movies and television series, including Outlander, Outlaw King, Mary Queen of Scots, Harry Potter, Skyfall and the Bollywood superhit from two decades ago, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

Michael McCuish, consumer PR manager for emerging markets, Visit Scotland, says: “The Caledonian Sleeper Train, which seamlessly connects Scotland to London, has had a lot of investment done for a complete revamp and now has double beds and other enhanced features.  




BOOK ahead for these exciting hotel openings in 2019.

England: Robert de Niro's is due to open his first London hotel in partnership with BD Hotels The Wellington, in Covent Garden. Planning permission has been granted for the scheme, which will include 83 bedrooms, two restaurants, a members' club, deli/café, spa and swimming pool.

The Hard Rock Hotel, located on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane in the conversion of the existing Cumberland Hotel, is scheduled to open its doors in spring next year and boasts around 1,000 rooms and suites, together with two bars and a Hard Rock Cafe.

And art’otel plans to open its first property in London in the neighbourhood of Hoxton, an 18-storey, 350-bedroom contemporary new hotel, the art'otel Hoxton.

Work has now started on the development of a 137-bedroom Dakota Deluxe hotel in Manchester, north-west England, the third in the luxury Dakota Deluxe brand alongside properties in Glasgow and Leeds; the design-led hotel is set to open in spring 2019. And in January 2019, the Hotel Indigo Manchester – Victoria Station hotel is set to open with 187 contemporary rooms.

The Grand, one of Birmingham's most iconic buildings, is to be redeveloped into a luxury, 180-room hotel with a restaurant and bar, a spa and a rooftop infinity pool, due to open in early 2019. And The Crescent is due to open next year in the historic spa town of Buxton, Derbyshire, as the Grade I-listed Crescent is transformed into an 80-bedroom, five-star spa hotel.

Scotland: Independent craft brewer BrewDog has announced plans to build the world’s first craft beer hotel, called The DogHouse, and will launch an immersive craft beer hotel and brewery expansion at its headquarters in Aberdeenshire, north Scotland.