Enjoying the momentum of a record 2016 and reporting strong numbers thus far in 2017, Britain is continuing to court potential visitors with a strategy that seeks to promote the U.K.'s attractions beyond London
VisitBritain brought its mission stateside last month for Destination Britain North America in Hollywood, Calif. The two-day event drew about 170 delegates, representing U.K. destination representatives, hoteliers, tour operators and others, for 12-minute meetings in the Dolby Theatre, next to host property the Loews Hollywood.
In addition, panel discussions addressed topics such as rail travel and food and drink, among VisitBritain's promotional priorities in the coming years.
Officials highlighted the recent rollout of the BritRail mobile pass, which simplifies the purchase of tickets across various railways serving the region and is the latest step in VisitBritain's efforts to emphasize the convenience of rail travel, particularly between many of Britain's must-see cities and sights.
"We're doing a lot of myth-busting," said Carol Dray, commercial director for VisitBritain. "Great Britain is very small. You can get from Manchester to Edinburgh in less than three hours. You can get from Manchester to London in less than two."
The mobile pass was among the accomplishments in year one of the Discover England Fund, a three-year, $52 million initiative supporting "projects that address the specific challenges of regional spread, ease of access and connectivity across Britain," according to a VisitBritain statement.
Culinary travel is another focus of the Discover England Fund for year one. Four destinations have been designated "major culinary hubs" for the year: London; Yorkshire; Cornwall and Devon; and Edinburgh.
Trevose Head Lighthouse in Cornwall. Cornwall is one of four of VisitBritain's destinated culinary hubs for the year.
"Britain is much more than fish and chips," said Gavin Landry, Americas director for VisitBritain. And it's more than London's dining scene, as well -- he cited a top-restaurants list by U.K.-based Good Food Guide in which two non-London restaurants came out on top: Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Cornwall at No. 1 and L'Enclume in Cumbria at No. 2.
These initiatives are aimed at educating the general public as well as travel agents, as evidenced by VisitBritain's recent relaunch of its trade website and a retooling of the BritAgent online training program. Whereas BritAgent previously required participants to complete its learning modules in a set order, now agents can complete the modules in any order they choose.
According to the U.K.'s Office for National Statistics, arrivals from the U.S. rose 6% last year, to 3.5 million, and spending by U.S. visitors was up 11%, to a record $4.4 billion. For the first half of 2017, total arrivals from North America were up 21%, to 2.9 million.