On 16 & 17 September we were delighted to bring the UK’s inbound tourism industry back together at our Annual Convention – the first major inbound tourism event to return in person after an extended hiatus. More than 200 travel trade professionals came together in the vibrant city of Manchester to hear key insights and topical discussions, reconnect with colleagues and clients, and kickstart business recovery for 2022 and beyond.
Led by the theme of ‘build back better’, we were treated to an outstanding keynote from Hamish Taylor, who shared his insights and key lessons from leading major brands including Eurostar Group from loss into profit. Andrea Nicholas, Green Tourism and Ross Calladine, VisitEngland delivered powerful and thought-provoking sessions on how the industry can take this opportunity to rebuild for a more sustainable and inclusive long-term future, and indeed how capturing consumers’ growing prioritisation of these issues will aid in business recovery. Justin Reid, Tripadvisor delved into how consumer behaviour and expectations have changed and provided a beacon of hope as booking intentions appeared to overtake 2020 figures for the first time.
A panel debate featuring Rebecca Brooks, Scottish Tourism Alliance; Bernard Donoghue, ALVA; Kurt Janson, Tourism Alliance; and Sheona Southern, Marketing Manchester saw a lively discussion about the future of the industry and how it should move forward, and our CEO roundtable provided an important opportunity for business leaders to engage directly with DCMS and VisitBritain.
Buyers also had the opportunity to attend fam trips exploring the latest Manchester products and met with a range of exciting local suppliers, including the National Football Museum, the Spirit of Manchester Distillery, and the brand new RHS Garden Bridgewater.
Our full-day B2B workshop saw buyers and suppliers undertake nearly 300 business appointments; this was complemented by our first ever Virtual B2B Workshop which took place the following week.
Of course, no UKinbound Convention would be complete without the famous fancy-dress competition, and we were thrilled to see delegates’ creativity on full display at the networking evening at the quintessentially Manchester venue, Escape To Freight Island.
The return of our Annual Convention gave a much-needed morale boost for both the Association and our members. There was a real sense of returning confidence and camaraderie amongst delegates that simply could not be achieved virtually, and we are hopeful that, with travel restrictions starting to ease, this marks the beginning of a new chapter for inbound tourism.