England’s Year of Literary Heroes will mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s passing with events taking place all over England. // © 2017 VisitBritain
Feature image (above): Wales’ Year of Legends encourages travelers to explore the country. // © 2017 VisitBritain
VisitBritain’s annual flagship trade event took over the seaside city of Brighton, England, for a two-day conference where travel professionals from around the world conducted face-to-face meetings with suppliers from all over the U.K.
According to Carol Dray, commercial director for VisitBritain, this year’s ExploreGB was the biggest ever, with more than 40,000 interviews taking place at the event.
“ExploreGB allows us to showcase our world-class attractions, latest tourism products and innovation, as well as do business with buyers from a broad range of global markets,” Dray said. “We are promoting a message of value and welcome, and it’s a fantastic platform to share the very best that Destination Britain has to offer.”
Paul Gauger, interim director and executive vice president of the Americas for VisitBritain, describes VisitBritain’s “Home of Amazing Moments” campaign as a way to highlight special experiences that can only happen in Britain.
“London remains our crown jewel, but our Amazing Moments campaign showcases all of the unexpected and exciting things there are to do, from the Highlands of Scotland down to Land’s End in England,” Gauger said.
Continuing the successful 2016 #OMGB (Oh My Great Britain) campaign to inspire visitors to discover their own amazing moments, VisitBritain shared 17 OMGB moments for 2017, including Scotland’s “Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology;” “Wales’ Year of Legends;” and “England’s Year of Literary Heroes.”
Scotland’s history and heritage defines the country for many visitors. In a 2015 VisitScotland survey, 32 percent of visitors stated they visited Scotland for its history and culture, so The Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology theme will shine a spotlight on the myths, stories and legends that attract people to the destination.
“If one-third of our visitors are telling us that this is important to them, then we have to respond by offering a really authentic experience,” said Linda McAllister, senior manager intermediary marketing and strategic partnerships for VisitScotland. “These authentic experiences that we live and breathe in Scotland are the things that we welcome the opportunity to have our visitors experience for themselves.”
Similarly, Wales’ Year of Legends celebrates thousands of years of history and myth, but also encourages visitors to create legendary experiences of their own through culture, heritage and events.
“We have our own language, we have castles and we have unique traditions, such as a singing and dancing festival that dates back to the Druid times,” said Robert Jones, media relations executive for VisitWales.
Through a variety of events taking place in 2017, VisitWales will highlight what makes Wales a distinctive U.K. destination.
With many significant literary anniversaries in 2017 — including the 200th anniversary of the death of Jane Austen, the 125th anniversary of the first Sherlock Holmes short story and the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter book series — VisitEngland is welcoming the opportunity to celebrate the authors, characters and stories that helped put England on the map.
In addition, the Year of Literary Heroes is designed to promote the growing trend in literary tourism that has been reinforced by the increased popularity of literary tours, such as the Jane Austen bus tour of Hampshire, the Tolkien trail through Shropshire and the muggles walking tour of London.
“Literary England appeals to a much bigger audience than you might imagine,” said Laura Dewar, head of England PR for VisitEngland. “Our literary heritage spans such a diverse realm of writers, settings and books — there really is something for everybody.”
Dewar also noted that a VisitEngland survey about literary tourism revealed more than half of respondents said they would take a literary tour. What’s more, nearly one-quarter of respondents had visited at least one literary location on their most recent trip.
Clair Mullin, Britain marketing director for VisitBritain, says that VisitBritain is taking note that visitors are interested in the combination of old and new — or the mix of contemporary Britain with its deep roots in history. The tourism board also revealed that research shows visitors are more likely to enjoy their trip if they have visited outside of London.
According to Mullin, the focus has subsequently shifted to “London Plus:” what travelers can do outside of London — both the areas of England that are easily accessible for a one or two-day side trip from London, as well as destinations that are located farther away from the capital.