The British Tourism & Travel Show 2021 (BTTS), the first major group travel trade show to return following lockdown, produced a much-needed buzz and a sign that the sector is on the road to recovery.

Taking place at the NEC in Birmingham on 22 and 23 September, the show brought together more than 220 exhibitors representing destinations, visitor attractions, hoteliers and a wide range of tourism suppliers to meet and reconnect with group tour planners and coach operators.

The two-day event was heralded a success by visiting travel trade buyers seeking new opportunities and ideas. 

Says Tom Cranshaw, head of global product at Vivu Journeys: “It was so great to be meeting suppliers and partners face to face again at the British Tourism & Travel Show. The exhibitors were perfectly matched for me as a UK and Ireland DMC buyer. I picked up some very useful information and formed some great relationships which have already helped in securing new business and opportunities since the show ended. I very much look forward to attending again in 2023!”

Alongside the comprehensive tourism exhibition was a Keynote programme that delivered knowledge-focused content, designed to give visitors actionable insights to take away. Speakers included VisitEngland, the Tourism Alliance, Travlaw, Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, Digital Visitor, lovetovist.com and more.

WeWantGroups.com Managing Director and founder Martin Greenwood was full of beaming praise for the show;

“This is the first trade show that I have exhibited since founding our company in May 2020. Suffice to say, it was absolutely amazing to be back out and seeing both familiar and new faces. Despite this being the first show for WeWantGroups.com and our sister company Staycations UK, I have attended these shows since 2010, and I have to say that this one for me was by far and away the most successful. Quality over quantity! Can’t wait to see everyone again next year.”

Says Martin Laver, managing director of coach tour operator ‘all about Tours’: 

“After the global issues of the past 18 months, it was great to see BTTS back again. Touching base with many new and old colleagues was worth the visit. We made new contacts for the future and left feeling even more positive about the season ahead!”

Kurt Janson, director of the Tourism Alliance, said: 

“BTTS’s role is vital for the future of the tourism industry. Over the two days it gives a unique chance for people from across the sector to get together, explore opportunities, and to renew and develop relationships”.

Mark Purchase, operations manager with the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT), says: 

“It’s really important to have shows like this. BTTS provides the opportunity to speak to a wider audience, and for that audience to see the opportunities that will help them grow their business in the months and years to come.”

Evidencing the value of the show to the industry, Martin Slater from Greatdays Group Travel said: 

“After facing so many challenges over the last 18 months or so, it’s fair to say we were a little nervous at how one of the largest and most important exhibitions in our diary would go. We were actually amazed at how well attended it was on both days and there was a real buzz of excitement and positivity amongst clients and suppliers, all keen to get back on track and work together to keep this industry going. Our stand was busy throughout each day with firm orders being placed and ideas discussed for future tours from both old and potential new clients. I’m looking forward to booking for 2023.”

Representing one of the many destinations exhibiting at the show, James Wood of Visit Liverpool said: 

“Liverpool once again had a really productive attendance at British Tourism and Travel Show. We had a steady flow of visitors to our stand over the two days which our ten stand partners appreciated. This has already translated into new business for the city which will further aid our tourism recovery.”

Show organisers Diversified Communications were equally pleased with the show.

“We were confident that the industry was ready to reconnect,” says Helen Conway, event director. “From the start there was a real buzz around the hall as people met up, often for the first time in nearly two years. Visitors had travelled from across the UK to attend, a clear indication of the importance of the show to helping the sector build back after what has been, and still is, a really challenging period. The positive energy that permeated the entire two days was clear evidence of the re-emergence of the sector.”

Further feedback from speakers, exhibitors and visitors:

“The travel industry is one of the most heavily regulated, so it’s important to keep on top of and understand the legal requirements to ensure compliance, whether you’re a tour operator, coach operator or a group travel organiser. Being at BTTS is important to us and it has been good to meet people face-to-face.”

Krystene Bousfield, senior associate solicitor, Travlaw

“We’re a sociable industry so it’s essential to immerse yourself in what’s happening. BTTS provides an ideal forum for this giving the industry the opportunity to get together, share knowledge and see what’s changed.”
Anthony Rawlins, CEO, Digital Visitor

“In November when we launch, lovetovisit.com will offer a new platform for destinations and attractions to reach new audiences. BTTS has given us a valuable opportunity, not only to explain about our role as a content aggregator for the tourism industry, but also to meet our own audiences face-to-face.”
Fed Pereira, CEO and founder, lovetovisit.com

“It has been worth the wait! It’s fantastic to finally catch up with industry partners and friends in person, and to meet some new ones too.”
Lucy Osborne, product manager, Leger Shearings Group

“We enjoyed a very busy and rewarding two days at BTTS 2021, catching up with many of our key clients. BTTS is the must-attend event for the domestic group travel sector.
Paul Mallon, managing director, Norman Allen Group Travel

“After being unable to meet both old and new contacts for so long, BTTS was a great way to reconnect with people. We had the opportunity to promote our attractions and create new partnerships that will aid our own recovery and our partners. We look forward to returning in 2023!”
James Roscoe, groups, sales & reservations team leader, Continuum Attractions

“What a wonderful return to BTTS! It’s been fantastic to see our industry buzz with excitement and positivity once again. Very well done to all involved in delivering a brilliant show!”
Richard Andrews, operations director, Roeville Coach Reservation Systems

“I was delighted to attend the British Tourism & Travel Show 2021, the first major trade event to take place in 18 months, and was pleased to able to speak to quality people on a face to face basis, who had genuine business enquiries, looking for new itineraries and were interested in Devon as a destination and all the wonderful assets we have to offer. Excellent to be back at a live event once again.”
Sally Everton, director, Visit Devon

The British Tourism & Travel Show returns to the NEC, Birmingham on 22-23 March 2023. To keep up with event developments, sign up to the mailing list at www.tourismshow.co.uk.