BoBI 2015: Best of Britain & Ireland reports successful event
UK’s leading domestic tourism trade show attracts 2,361 attendees
Boasting a fresh new look for 2015, Best of Britain & Ireland – the UK’s biggest annual event for the domestic tourism, travel and venue sectors, has been hailed a big success.
The two day show, which took place at the NEC Birmingham on 11-12 March, featured over 250 exhibiting companies and welcomed 2,361 industry professionals from across Britain and Ireland. Notably, over 30% of visitors cited a purchasing authority of over £500K (10% quoted over £5 million).
Many of the UK’s biggest tour operators and travel organisers were in attendance – including Alfa Travel, Bakers Dolphin Coach Travel, Barnes Coaches, British Airways Holidays, Daish's Holidays, David Urquhart Travel, Edwards Coaches, Epsom Coaches, Expedia, Globetrotters Travel & Tours, JacTravel, Johnsons Coaches, Just Go! Holidays, Laterooms.com, Logitravel Group, Miki Travel, Newmarket Holidays, Saga Holidays, Shearings Holidays, Skills Holidays, The UK Holiday Group, Thomas Cook, Travelzoo, and Woods Travel.
“BoBI 2015 was simply the best and most productive travel trade show I have attended in the last 20 years. I’m looking forward to next year already,” says Mark Wilson, managing director of Rondo Travel.
“Coming to BoBI was a great opportunity to renew contacts and research new products. I loved the show and was actually the last buyer to leave – I just didn’t want to go!” says visitor Rob Carroll, commercial manager at Railtrail Tours.
“It’s so worthwhile because everything’s here under one roof. There are so many different hotel suppliers and attractions – I met everyone I need to meet here!” says Jamie Bawn, contracts manager at Red7 Leisure.
Alongside the show’s bustling exhibition, the seminar theatre (supported by The Tourism Society) was a hive of activity throughout. Powerful panel sessions featuring a stellar line-up of industry thought leaders sparked plenty of insightful debate, with many enjoying standing room only crowds. Visiting buyers were also treated to an exclusive first look at Resorts World Birmingham – the UK’s first integrated destination leisure complex, opening this summer.
Politicians call for more support for tourism
Tourism is big business in the UK – generating over £127bn per year and employing nearly 10% of the workforce – and it’s set to get bigger (up to £257bn by 2025, according to VisitBritain). In the midst of the recession it helped create 1 in 3 new jobs, and it continues to play a vital role in the growth of the economy. Yet it still lacks prominence in many political party manifestos. That was just one of the big talking points at The Tourism Society’s popular Question Time session at this year’s show, which challenged senior politicians to outline their post-election-day plans for championing domestic tourism.
Panellists included tourism minister Helen Grant MP; shadow transport minister Gordon Marsden, Labour MP for Blackpool South; Liberal Democrat peers Lord Lee (chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Tourism and chairman of ALVA) and Lord Storey CBE (leader of Liverpool's European Capital of Culture); and William Cash, UKIP’s Tourism and Heritage spokesman.
Topics under discussion included dropping VAT on tourism/attractions to 5% (a move supported unanimously by a quick audience poll), securing funding for destinations, the closure of tourist information centres, methods for encouraging more inbound visitors to travel beyond London, and the importance of more support for tourism from LEPs and the government. Gordon Marsden called for tourism to be “recognised as the huge income generator that it is”, whilst Lord Storey said that “tourism’s prominence needs to be dramatically increased.”
“The message has to come from the top,” said Lord Lee. “Our national leaders need to beat the drum [for tourism] more.”
Reasons to be optimistic – the rise of the ‘here to staycation’
Last year the British Museum and the National Gallery combined, hosted more visitors than Barcelona. That was just one of the ‘hot’ facts cited by Bernard Donoghue, director of Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA), at this year’s show. Speaking just days before the official release of ALVA members’ visitor figures for 2014  , he was part of a ‘Domestic Tourism: Past its Peak or on the Road to New Heights?’ panel session (hosted by Travel Weekly and travelGBI).
Donoghue was joined by Shearings Holidays chief executive Denis Wormwell, Deirdre Wells, chief executive of UKinbound, and Jim Eccleston, director of TNS Travel & Tourism, who revealed exclusive research prepared for the session which highlighted that a rising number of the British population were considering an international holiday in the next year.
Despite the growing interest in overseas holiday options, the panel remained optimistic that the domestic market still had room to compete with outbound growth. However, domestic operators looking to do so, would need to “work harder” to secure bookings said Eccleston.
“I think it is the here to staycation – people’s mind-sets have changed,” said Wormwell, discussing the ongoing staycation trend. He believes that “content is key” to driving growth in the market, citing the importance of investing in the product and keeping the experience fresh.
“It all comes down to value for money and value of experience not just the price,” agreed Donoghue, describing the UK’s tourism product as “the envy of the world”. “It’s about talking up, investing in, renewing and refreshing.”
Big vs small: collaboration, not competition
According to the latest ALVA figures, more than 123 million people (domestic and inbound) visited the UK’s top museums, galleries, historic houses, heritage sites, gardens and other attractions in 2014 (up from 119 million in 2013). So, how do smaller attractions and destinations compete with their bigger – more established neighbours? That was the subject of day two’s opening panel session ‘Big versus small – getting noticed by GTOs and tour planners’; moderated by Stuart Render, editor of coach tourism trade magazine Coach Monthly.
Examining the challenges faced by smaller tourism businesses, there was a general consensus among the panel that co-operation and collaboration could yield more effective results than direct competition. Elaine Moss from Visit York was one of four speakers who highlighted the importance of working with other attractions to maximise exposure. Barry Mortlock, of the Alice in Wonderland Tour in Llandudno, focused on the way he works with local hoteliers to develop group friendly packages. Rona Wallace, from VisitScotland, spoke about the three ‘c’s – customer experience, collaboration and communication. Whilst Sarah Greenwood, from Hudson’s Media, gave her five tips for promoting tourism businesses: know your customer; know your USP; be imaginative, piggy back on other ideas, and enter industry awards.
Exhibitors celebrate successful show
As in previous years, it was the quality of visitors and their high level of engagement that most impressed exhibitors.
Looking ahead to 2016, the show’s exhibitor list already includes a host of returning big name brands – including Accor Hotels, Albatross Travel Group, BBC Tours, Best Western Hotels, Devon's Top Attractions, DFDS Seaways, Distinctive Systems, Encore Tickets, Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, Explore Northumberland, Explore the Lake District, Greatdays Travel Group, Herefordshire, Hilton Worldwide, Hospitality Line, Menzies Hotels, Norman Allen Group Travel, Warner Leisure Hotels, Wedgewood Visitor Centre, and West Somerset Railway.
“The BoBI show continues to go from strength to strength reflected by this year’s new branding, the buzzy atmosphere and the quality of the sales produced,” says Gregory Yeoman, executive director of The Tourism Society.
“Best of Britain & Ireland is a key event for us and we are more than happy with the contacts and exposure we received,” says James Wood, marketing campaign manager at Marketing Liverpool.
“This is the only event that we exhibit at, simply because Best of Britain & Ireland is the premium show for the market and has proven to be all we need to do,” says Theresa Foley, head of trade sales at MyFerryLink.
“BoBI was great – absolutely invaluable. And, most importantly, all of the contacts we made were of really good calibre. We’re looking forward to 2016,” says Debbie Matthews from Love Weston.
“It’s been fantastic. The atmosphere has been wonderful, with really good quality visitors, and a lot of new trade for attractions like us. The person-to-person experience that we’re able to get by attending this show is really important to us,” says Sue Day, guest relations officer at West Midland Safari & Leisure Park.
“Best of Britain & Ireland is really the only event that’s operating for the domestic market nationally, so it’s really important to us. We’re very happy and we won’t go anywhere else!” says Sarah Greenwood, publisher at Hudson’s Media; which sponsored two new feature areas at this year’s show (Britain’s Heritage and Hotel Lobby).
Save the date for 2016
“This is a really exciting time for British and Irish tourism – and the industry is full of positivity and enthusiasm for what’s to come. As the main event for the domestic tourism market, Best of Britain & Ireland will continue to reflect the growth and development of this important sector, working closely with the industry to achieve its full potential,” says David Maguire, Best of Britain & Ireland’s new event director.
Best of Britain & Ireland returns to the NEC Birmingham next year on 16-17 March 2016. For further information and to stay up-to-date with all the latest news and exhibitor information, please visit www.bobievent.com .
 UK visitors attractions see 6.5% increase in visitor numbers in 2014 (ALVA figures released on 16 March 2015) http://www.alva.org.uk/details.cfm?p=403&codeid=756
Lloyd Jones, Sales Manager
t: +44 (0)1733 889 684
David Maguire, Event Director
t: +44 (0)1273 645127
Diversified Communications UK (Diversified UK) is a fast growing trade event organiser and publisher based in Brighton, Peterborough, Leamington Spa, and Nailsworth, Glos. In addition to Best of Britain & Ireland, Diversified UK’s portfolio includes SITS – The Service Desk & IT Support Show; ServiceDesk360; office*; Casual Dining; Natural & Organic Products Europe; Natural and Organic Awards; Nordic Organic Food Fair & Natural Products Scandinavia in Malmö, Sweden; camexpo; Natural Products magazine; Natural Beauty Yearbook; Ocean Business (including Offshore Survey Conference & Ocean Careers); OceanBuzz; MARELEC Marine Electromagnetics conference (in Philadelphia, USA); Euro Bus Expo; Coach and Bus Live; The Route One Operator Excellence Awards; The National Coach Tourism Awards; Route One magazine; and Coach Monthly.
Diversified UK is part of Diversified Communications, a leading international media company providing market access, education and information through global, national and regional face-to-face events, eMedia, publications and television stations. Diversified serves a number of industries including: seafood, food service, natural and organic, healthcare, commercial marine, and business management. Based in Portland, Maine, USA, Diversified employs over 800 staff, with divisions in the Eastern United States, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Thailand and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit: www.divcom.com