Tourism minister Michael Ellis has trodden the path of the Great West Way, a new touring route from London to Bristol, which aims to attract 1.5 million new visitors to the region over ten years.
As part of his tour, the minister visited some of the iconic locations along the route, including Highclere Castle (AKA Downton Abbey); Avebury, Europe’s largest stone circle; Lacock, the National Trust village that is one of the most filmed in the country; and the Roman Baths, home to the UK’s only natural hot springs.
Ellis also visited Bristol Airport, a key gateway to the route, to unveil new imagery of the Great West Way, depicting four ways that the multi-modal route can be explored – on foot, bike, train and canal boat – and bearing the message: “Curious Travellers Start Here.”
The airport already serves more than eight million passengers a year and expects its inbound traffic to increase following the launch of the route, which is being marketed internationally and has secured £1 million funding from UK government’s Discover England Fund, designed to boost inbound tourism.
The minister then spoke at an official networking launch event at the Roman Baths, where 52 suppliers (including attractions, hotels and tour providers) met 42 international and domestic travel trade buyers (tour operators and wholesalers) to create bookable packages and itineraries.
These will be marketed in the primary target markets of the US, Germany and Netherlands and will aim to encourage international visitors to travel to the region, to stay longer and to delve deeper.
Attendees were the first to see the Great West Way Travel Trade Directory, featuring 350 local businesses and a key tool in helping trade develop bookable product along the route, and a new film that showcases all that the route has to offer, from iconic attractions such as Stonehenge, to rolling green countryside and chocolate box villages.
Great West Way director, David Andrews, said: “The Great West Way is an innovation in product development and will greatly enhance England’s tourism offer to boost international and domestic visitor growth and spread the economic benefits of tourism across the region.
“We’re delighted to have the full support of the Tourism Minister and that he will be able to see the collaboration between destinations and trade in person.”
The Great West Way is one of several successful projects to receive funding from the UK government’s £40 million Discover England Fund, administered by VisitEngland.
VisitWiltshire are the destination organisation leading the project.
Ellis added: “I am thrilled to be treading the path of the Great West Way - the UK’s first touring route of its kind.
“We know that this region has so much to offer visitors.
“Now we want the world to know.
“This move will deliver personalised visitor experiences that take in the Great West Way’s destinations, accommodation, attractions and transport options.
“We want to make the most out of this opportunity to deliver a significant boost to domestic and inbound tourism and the local economies along the way.”