A Culinary Feast from Countryside to Bustling Cities
Last month, I headed off to England for the 2017 ExploreGB event, which hosted more than 400 buyers and 30 international journalists, as well as 400 UK travel industry suppliers, making this year’s ExploreGB the largest ever, according to Carol Dray, commercial director for VisitBritain. During the welcoming address, Dray noted that tourism is one of the UK’s fastest growing export industries, worth more than £127 billion to the UK economy.
One of the ExploreGB dinners took place at the British Airways i360 restaurant, where we had the opportunity to take a ride on the moving observation tower to get a bird’s-eye view of Brighton, and where Paul Gauger, interim director of the Americas for VisitBritain, also touched upon the impact of tourism for the country. He noted that, “The figures show strong growth in 2016 from North America, both Canada and the U.S., the latter being Britain’s most valuable tourism source market, with 4.3 million visits, up 7 percent from 2015.
“Comparing growth during the last six years shows there were 7.5 million more visits in 2016 than 2010, an increase of 25 percent,” he said.
But that’s not stopping the UK, as they’re still looking for unique ways to attract more visitors. “Our role is working with UK suppliers to develop new products for international buyers,” said Suzy Faulkner, head of product development and distribution for VisitBritain, during the ExploreGB welcoming address. She noted that VisitBritain has focused its resources on a few main areas in the last six months, including rail, food and drink, and luxury.
Draw Them in with Discovery
“We understand that nothing quite beats trying our products and services for yourself,” Dray said during her welcoming address, and so with that in mind I set out to discover the sights in Southwest England. I took in the magical ruins of Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, with waves dramatically crashing against the seaside cliffs; had tea with an heir to the Berkeley Castle during a visit to its hallowed halls; and walked through the ss Great Britain, a former passenger steamship built in 1843 and now a museum depicting what life was like for those traveling on the steamship during the 1800s. I was also wowed by the street art in Brighton and Bristol—the latter home to world-renowned street artist Banksy; was captivated by the Bristol Cathedral, which encompasses about 1,000 years of history; walked through the streets in Port Isaac where British medical comedy “Doc Martin” is filmed; and learned about sustainable living in the only rainforest under captivity in the world at the Eden Project. I also had the opportunity to explore the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, built for King George IV to socialize; and enjoyed a boat tour of Bristol. Southwest England offers history, culture, outdoor exploration and stunning scenery, as well as a great culinary experience. Yes, you read right—England has upped the ante when its comes to its cuisine offerings, and I can personally attest to that.
Sell Them with Fantastic Food
On day one of ExploreGB, chef Kim Woodward noted during a cooking demonstration that, “Britain should be known for all of its produce, for me, though, it’s for food in general, and Britain is [currently] the best it can be.”
From the countryside to the bustling cities, I had delicious meals throughout my travels, each offering a unique experience. The UK is focusing on food as one of its four pillars to attract travelers, and as Faulkner said, “The food and drink pillar looks at new food hubs including London, Cornwall, Devon, Yorkshire and Scotland.” During my journey, I had the opportunity to experience three of these areas—one of them with a 2-Michelin star chef.
On a street tour in Brighton, I was thankful our tour guides took a detour to warm us up from the cold and headed to ChoccyWoccyDooDah for hot chocolate. This local chocolate factory will have your guests thinking they’ve stepped into Willy Wonka’s factory with a modern twist; everything sold at this quirky little spot is made of pure chocolate.
Another highlight was lunch with 2-Michelin star chef Michael Caines, who is the mastermind behind Lympstone Manor, expected to open this spring in Devon. This Georgian mansion set on 28 acres with views of the Exe Estuary will feature 21 guestrooms, three dining rooms all serving the same menus, but each with a different ambiance, and a helicopter launch pad; a vineyard will soon follow. Caines referred to this project as needing a lot of “TLC—Tender, Love, and Caines.”
After touring the estate, we were treated to the first meal hosted on property and were able to judge Caines’ legendary culinary prowess for ourselves. The feast began with Brixham crab ravioli, followed by a Devon beef fillet with celeriac puree, shallot and horseradish confit and red wine sauce, and then came the piece de resistance—dessert, a coconut panna cotta that consisted of an exotic fruit salad, passion fruit sorbet, and coconut foam. If the lavish rooms, stunning scenery and attention to detail don’t lure your clients to this property, enjoying a meal prepared by Caines definitely should do the trick. Rates start at $433 per night for a Classic Garden View.
A true royal treat was enjoying tea and pastries with Charles Berkeley, next in line as heir to the Berkeley Castle. The family still resides in a section of the castle, but part of the castle is open to visitors from April to October.
After roaming through the halls, listening to stories of Berkeley’s childhood in the castle, and learning about the family’s history, we were treated to tea and sandwiches with Berkeley himself. And if your clients would like a private tour with a family member, or lunch on site, just ask, as many experiences can be coordinated, including weddings.