Britain Beckons

City skyline and the Thames, London, Greater London

Tricia Warwick, Director for Asia-Pacific, Middle East, and Africa at VisitBritain, the national tourism agency for Britain, talks about tourism plans to the country for 2019, attractions and more 

How is the tourism industry looking for UK in 2019?

Tourism is one of the UK’s most valuable export industries and needs no trade deals to attract overseas investment. It is also a fiercely competitive global industry and people have a lot of choices. We want the UK to be the number one destination for global travellers so it is great to see forward bookings looking strong in the coming weeks and months from some of our most valuable long-haul visitor markets. Forward flight bookings for arrivals to the UK from the Middle East are tracking up 5% from February to July this year compared to the same period in 2018.

London is a hotspot for travellers from the GCC including Oman. Which other destinations within Britain would you suggest for people to explore?

 We are making it easier for Omanis to visit London and other parts of England, as we are promoting airline accessibility to regions re: good connectivity, seat capacity (eg: Oman Air flies twice a day into London Heathrow and daily to Manchester). Travellers can also fly into London and fly out from Manchester allowing them to explore other regions between these two gateways (e.g. the Cotswolds).

We’re working with the travel industry on luxury itineraries, promoting VIP shopping experiences (e.g. Bicester Village 45 min away from London) and new products (e.g. Horseracing Package ‘Sport of Kings’ – you get to have luxury experiences across 5 racecourses in England – Ascot, Chester, York, Windsor and Newmarket. Tours of racehorse stud-farms, training stables, also visit world-class heritage and sporting venues.

Are there any specific spots/areas in Britain that you are promoting currently?

We are providing visitors from Oman with more reasons to travel to Britain, from world-class shopping such as Harrods, to fine-dining in Michelin star restaurants like the Greenhouse in Knightsbridge in London. Sharing the contrast of contemporary culture through our vibrant cities to the quintessentially British countryside, we seek to inspire visitors to explore more, travel further and extend their stay by embracing the warm hospitality of Great Britain. Within just two hours of London, visitors can experience Royal Britain through Windsor, the venue of two royal weddings in 2018, Oxford, made popular by exploring world class and historic universities complemented by a traditional afternoon tea.  If arriving at Manchester, visitors can experience the life of a Premier League player during an unforgettable stadium tour at Manchester City or Manchester United; sit in the press room hot seat, walk down the players’ tunnel, and sit in your favourite players’ chair. Manchester is also a short drive from England’s iconic Lake District to explore the breath-taking natural landscapes and experience relaxation or adventure with the option of staying in a variety of luxury boutique hotels, for example, the Applegarth Villa Hotel and Restaurant or the Lakeside Hotel.

 What is the percentage of the number of visitors from GCC to Britain compared to the rest?

GCC is a priority market as we invest more here. A £2.2 billion market, GCC is the 2nd most valuable market to inbound UK tourism (after US) – when all 6 Gulf countries combined, (including Oman).

In 2019 we are expecting 825,000 visits from GCC and we forecast a £2.4 billion spend (visits rose +53% 2012-17 and spending rose + 89%). Looking at a longer-term growth 2017-2027, visits expected to increase by 17%.  Visitors from GCC spend more (in 2017, the average spend per visit was £2,733, more than 4 x all market average) which is also great for repeat visits to Britain.

What can visitors look forward to in 2019?

Sport: The usual highlights of Wimbledon in July and Premier League football with the final in May (e.g. travellers can combine a visit to Manchester, home of two main football teams; Manchester United and Manchester City with a football match).

Culture: the Christian Dior exhibition at V&A (February-July); Palace of Holyroodhouse Edinburgh, wedding outfits of Duke and Duchess of Sussex on display (June-Oct); Queen Victoria’s 200th birthday celebrations; UK’s largest display of Van Gogh in a decade at Tate Britain (March-August); 500th celebration of Leonardo Da Vinci with exhibitions across UK (Feb-May).

 What would be an ideal itinerary for a visitor travelling to Britain for the first time?

 If it’s their first time in the UK visitors must start with London and visit famous icons such as Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Oxford Street, the Tower of London and Big Ben. Omanis can combine their sightseeing with a personalized shopping experience in Selfridges and a world-class food experience in one of London’s Michelin-star restaurants such as the Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester Hyde Park.

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