I was recently reminded what a great tourist destination the UK is, something easy to forget if your occupation focuses mainly on outbound travel.
It was a timely prompt; the UK’s attractions are something we may all need to refresh our memories of if coronavirus affects foreign holiday plans as much as it has in other parts of the world.
It took a visit to Manchester, of all places, to jog my memory about what the UK has to offer.
It’s been a long time since this soft southerner was there; leaving Piccadilly station, the first pleasant surprise – other cities please note – was a free bus service, one of which went within metres of my hotel. The driver even called me “sir”.
I was only there a night, but examining the hotel map, it struck me I would well enjoy a long weekend visiting the numerous museums and historic buildings, let alone taking in the music, sport and food scenes as well.
Pretty much everything was within a 10-minute walk of my hotel, a beautifully renovated former stock exchange that was an attraction in itself. To me, it made for a perfect UK city break – even if at times Manchester, like the rest of the UK, would be better with a roof over it.
It confirmed the more you travel the world, the more you forget what’s on your own doorstep. The UK’s landmass would fit almost three times into Texas, but drive the length of this country and you’ll encounter more diverse landscapes than you’ll find in some nations many times the UK’s size.
Let’s be honest, large areas of this planet look pretty much the same, but given its compactness, you can’t say that about the UK.
From the Jurassic south coast to the Scottish isles via the Lake District, so much of it is just gob-smackingly lovely and boasts history and heritage that’s the envy of the world – the American travel writer Bill Bryson was correct when he said the problem with the British is we don’t realise what we have here.
The UK’s appeal as a holiday destination might often be wrongly lost on its inhabitants, but those from other countries get it in huge numbers.
This year, overseas visits to the UK are expected to be a record 39.7 million, about 500,000 more than the previous high of 2017 when sterling’s collapse after the EU referendum made the UK bargain basement.
If you’re an agent, you might not persuade clients to swap Marbella for Manchester, but when a hotel in Tenerife becomes an isolation ward, some might think twice about their summer holiday location.
Being a couple on a February break told to stay put in the Canaries is one thing, but for a family with young children on their annual summer holiday that’s quite another.
So perhaps some will think closer to home as the summer approaches. A domestic break might still take some selling, but get it right and your customers may well discover somewhere they never knew they loved.