BOBI in Birmingham – a place to do business

It’s March, so that means a visit to The Best of Britain and Ireland show (BOBI) at the NEC. Andy Goff went along for a look.


BOBI 2013 panel

The BOBI Panel: Angela Byrne (IOM tourism), James Beresford (Visit Britain), Simon Gregory (Tourism Ireland), Chris Osborne (Wales Tourism) and the man with the big fish, Bernard Donohughe (Leading Visitor Attractions)

For the third year running Birmingham’s NEC has been the venue for the flagship domestic travel market trade fair – The Best of Britain and Ireland.

Favourite locals were there – from Cadbury World, Visit Birmingham, Birmingham Airport and Ragley Hall to those representing more far flung outposts of these sceptred isles: Durham Cathedral, Pitlochry’s Atholl Palace Hotel, Houses Castles and Gardens of Ireland and the quaintly titled Isle of Man Steam packet Company, for example.

As in previous years there was a Tourism Question Time organised by The Tourism Society. This provided the opportunity for representatives of tourism organisations to make presentations and answer questions about the state of tourism in the British Isles.

BOBI 2013 Visit Birmingham stand

BOBI 2013 Visit Birmingham combined stand

In previous years the government have shown an active interest in the tourism industry and been ably represented by John Penrose MP. His replacement, Hugh Robertson MP, was expected to take the platform but was prevented from doing so – apparently because he was required in Westminster for a three-line whip vote in Parliament. This meant the Q&A session was more subdued than in the past.

With no-one in power there to attack over the cost and difficulty of obtaining UK visas for visitors, the need to change the clocks from GMT to double summer time and the demand for money to support the squeezed tourism industry (like cutting VAT on tourist attractions) – all past moans smoothly handled by Penrose – there was little stomach for feisty discussion.

BOBI is a trade show – the public are not invited – and it’s a place and time when business is done by those that hope to entertain and amuse visitors in the year ahead – rain willing.

The British Isles will never be able to compete with the sunshine locations in warmer climes but domestic tourism and incoming visitor spending is hugely important to the economy. Every time we Brits go abroad, we become importers in economic terms. Whenever the Germans, French, Americans and Chinese visit here – spending their foreign currency – we become exporters.

Importing bad, exporting good says the government.

One thing is for sure, if we suffer the same sodden summer in 2013 as we did in 2012 the incentives for Brits to go abroad will be greater and the effort required to keep them supporting domestic  venues will be exponentially higher.

However, as a regular visitor to Mid Wales I’d rather their tourism department stayed silent. It’s so much nicer there when the beautiful mountain roads and glorious beaches are empty.

More pictures available on this link to Google+