Wednesday March 20, 2013
The opening proceedings of the Best of Britain and Ireland 2013 started off with a well attended and interactive Tourism Question Time held by the Tourism Society. The session featured speakers from England, Wales, Ireland and the Isle of Man.
Bernard Donoghue FTS (Director, ALVA) chaired the event which sparked discussion on future marketing plans, unique visitor experiences and upcoming attractions for 2013.
A common consensus was that the weather dictated much of the visitor numbers and trends. Chris Osborne (Chair, Welsh Tourism Alliance) suggested that destinations should begin to embrace and promote ‘all-weather tourism.’ This notion was supported by James Berresford (Chief Executive, VisitEngland) who added that the focus should drift away from the sunshine and embrace fun without worrying about the weather.
Unique attractions and experiences were highlighted by Angela Byrne (Head of Tourism, Isle of Man) as the Isle of Man will begin to incorporate seven dark-sky sites in their tourism season. In Ireland, many Bed and Breakfasts are being categorised by activities they support to provide a comprehensive holiday to visitors. Simon Gregory (Head of Markets, Tourism Ireland) explained Ireland’s commitment to target ‘social energisers,’ looking for a diverse holiday experience.
The panel also laid out future market strategies for their respective destinations. With a continuous growth of UK visitors to the Isle of Man, Byrne was hopeful that the understanding by the government of the importance of the visitor economy will continue. Osborne explained that as cuts in funding have required Wales to rely on VisitBritian’s marketing scheme, VisitWales is now looking to expanding their reach to Germany, America and Irish markets. In England 41 destinations have benefited from the recent Regional Growth Fund according to Berresford who said the focus will begin to shift towards promoting foreign travel outside of London. Gregory stated that while Ireland benefited from the amount of tourist activity in Britain in 2012 it continues to see a great opportunity to grab visitors who are in the United Kingdom, and hopes to see the opening of a common visa scheme between the nations in the future.
The session closed with the panel giving their recommendations of not-to-be missed attractions including The Gathering (Ireland), Festival Number 6 (Wales), Cycling Monsal Trail (Peak District, England), and Segway Tours (Isle of Man)
At the close of session Simon Gregory officially opened the Best of Britain and Ireland 2013.