Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop has been awarded the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK’s new Coach Friendly Attraction status.
This is the fourth attraction, and the first in Scotland, to receive the status since the scheme was launched at the British Tourism & Travel Show in March. The status was presented to the attraction at VisitScotland expo last week.
Alf Scrimgour, CPT’s Operations & Tourism Executive says: “CPT is delighted to welcome Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop to this new scheme. The status recognises the commitment the attraction has made to making sure that coach parties receive a very warm welcome when visiting. The attraction is obviously extremely well known nationally and internationally and it has never wavered in its commitment to make sure that their offer is second to none. CPT congratulates it on being the first attraction in Scotland to be awarded the new status.”
Commenting on the status, Lynda Denton from the attraction says: “We are delighted to have received this award from the CPT. As an independent family business we very much value nurturing relationships within the tourism industry and a big part of that is not only building close bonds with those who plan tour itineraries but ensuring that we have products and services that their clients find enriching. At the end of the day that is who we all serve.
“We have created experiences for visitors to Gretna Green Famous Blacksmiths Shop so that even those that are not here to marry take away special memories of good times spent at our historic and very romantic attraction.”
Previous recipients of the status are Woburn Abbey and Gardens, West Midland Safari and Leisure Park, and Sabrina Boat in Shrewsbury.
The studio complex in Leeds where ITV soap Emmerdale is filmed is to open for tours later this summer.
The Burley Road complex, situated just over a mile west of the city centre, will be home to the ‘Emmerdale Studio Experience’, giving groups the opportunity to see behind the scenes.
The new attraction is being delivered by Continuum Attractions in partnership with ITV. Continuum Attractions is the company responsible for the successful ‘Coronation Street The Tour’ in Manchester, and the introduction in 2015 of group visits to Emmerdale’s exterior filming sets on the Harewood Estate between Leeds and Harrogate.
Continuum Attractions says: “Continuum Attractions is pleased to confirm the intent to deliver the ‘Emmerdale Studio Experience’, in partnership with ITV. Subject to planning, the Burley Road Studios in central Leeds will open to the public in the late summer of 2016 to showcase a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of one of ITV’s best loved soaps. Following the resounding success of ‘Coronation Street The Tour’, Continuum Attractions is delighted to continue its working relationship with ITV.”
Details of how to buy tickets will be released in May.
Continuum Attractions operates an award-winning portfolio of visitor experiences across the UK including Emirates Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, The Real Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh, York’s Chocolate Story, Oxford Castle Unlocked and The Canterbury Tales. The company is also working with The Royal Mint in South Wales to deliver ‘The Royal Mint Experience’, a new factory experience and interactive exhibition that’s due to open on 18 May.
The Hotel Collection has placed what is understood to be its 10 remaining hotels on the market for what is reported to be a combined value of £130m.
The hotels include some of the coach tourism industry’s favourites, including The Majestic Hotel in Harrogate, The Redworth Hall Hotel in County Durham, The Imperial Hotel in Torquay and The Imperial Hotel in Blackpool.
Martin Rogers, head of UK hotel transactions at Savills, the property company handling the sale, says: “We are pleased to be bringing this significant collection of hotels to market. The distinctive heritage and character of each property has been maintained while generating a robust collective income. The Hotel Collection portfolio also offers numerous value-add and asset management opportunities to further enhance the long term revenue.”
The Hotel Collection, previously known as Puma Hotels, was acquired by US property investment firm Lone Star Funds in 2014. In 2015, Lone Star, which also owns Jurys Inn, announced the creation of Amaris Hospitality, a company focused on properties operating under various international brands such as Hilton, Doubletree by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn from Hilton Worldwide, Mercure and MGallery from AccorHotels. At the time it was reported that Lone Star was likely to dispose of the individual properties that made up the Hotel Collection.
The 10 hotels are: The Majestic, Harrogate; The Old Ship Hotel, Brighton; The Redworth Hall Hotel, County Durham; The Imperial Hotel, Torquay; The Billesley Manor Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon; The Imperial Hotel, Blackpool; Shrigley Hall Hotel, Golf and Country Club, Macclesfield; The Stirling Highland Hotel; The Aberdeen Altens Hotel; and The Angel Hotel, Cardiff.
Note: Lone Star Funds was in the news again this week when it was announced that it had acquired Shearings Group.
Tour operator Shearings is reported to have been acquired from its management team by US property investment firm Lone Star Funds.
The Manchester Evening News and Travel Weekly report that the Wigan-based group has also acquired Equalmatch, the Chesterfield-based specialist firm which owns the Travelstyle and UK Breakaways brands. The move looks set to consolidate Shearings’ position as one of Europe’s largest specialist holiday operators and will complement its fast-growing National Holidays business by expanding its regional presence in the UK.
Lone Star Funds, the company behind the SSE Arena at Wembley, was previously a minority investor in Shearings. Shearings Group was the subject of a management buyout from 3i in 2014.
It is understood that the Equalmatch deal underlines Lone Star’s intention to grow Shearings’ business through selected acquisitions, with a future stock market listing or sale of the enlarged group understood to be likely. Shearings says the acquisition will complement its “fast-growing” National Holidays business by expanding its regional presence in the UK.
The change to the Group’s ownership structure sees former Travelodge chief executive and chairman Grant Hearn, already a non-executive director, take over as chairman, with Denis Wormwell remaining as chief executive. Grant Hearn already chairs another Lone Star-backed business, Amaris Hospitality, which owns a number of Jurys Inn and Accor hotels.
Shearings has also announced a 30% increase in profits to £9.1m for 2015, up from £7m in 2014. The specialist operator of escorted tours and leisure hotels made a pre-tax profit of £5m compared to a loss of £900,000 last year.
In the 12 months to December 2015, the group carried 1.1m passengers, up 2% on the previous year, and increased revenues to £201m, up from £200m – a record in the group’s 100-year history.
Shearings says strong demand for its UK holidays, together with margin improvements and operating cost reductions, contributed to the record performance.
The Group has also continued to invest in its infrastructure with increased spend on hotel refurbishments of £4.6m, that’s up from £3.6m in 2014, and the largest ever UK order of Mercedes Benz Euro 6 coaches with 46 new, high specification vehicles joining the 240-strong fleet this month.
Denis Wormwell says: “This was another landmark year for the Group, with a fourth successive year of improved financial results, continued investment in the business, new ownership and our first business acquisition since 2005. With the backing of a long-term investment partner, our best ever line up of holidays and hotels, a well-invested estate and fleet and the loyalty of our fast-expanding over-50s audience, we’re in the ideal position to continue growing our presence and position as the leading escorted tours operator.”
Beamish Museum is to build a 1950s town and a Georgian coaching inn as part of a major £17m expansion that looks set to attract an additional 100,000 visitors to the region each year. Construction of what the attraction describes as the single largest project ever undertaken, is due to start at the end of this year and will include a replica Weardale farm.
Richard Evans, Beamish Museum Director, says: “We’re really delighted with the news that our exciting development plans for Beamish over the next four years now have planning approval. It is a real milestone in the 45-year history of the region’s living museum. This is the single largest project ever undertaken at Beamish. It will enable us to create a range of new exhibits for visitors to enjoy across the museum site, offering people new ways to experience the history of the North East.
“We will continue to focus on what makes Beamish the special place that it is, using our collections to tell the story of everyday life in our region through time. The new development will demonstrate a time of huge change for the people of the North East and will ensure Beamish tells the story of a period still in living memory, just as was the case when the living museum was first founded back in the 1970s.
“By 2020 we hope to welcome some 750,000 people every year, including nearly 400,000 tourists from outside the region, which will have a huge impact on the economy in many communities. We will also create around 95 new jobs and 50 apprentices at the museum, meaning we should be employing around 500 people by the end of this decade.”
Beamish is working with communities across north east England and has received initial support for a £10.75m Heritage Lottery Fund grant. The 1950s town plans include a cinema, houses, a cafe and aged miners’ homes. The 1820s expansion will feature a coaching inn, where Beamish’s nationally-significant Georgian collections will be displayed, a windmill that was shipped from Sweden to Blyth, and a replica of the home of Joe the Quilter.
Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, brings history to life, with the unforgettable sights, sounds, and delicious tastes of the past at 1820s Pockerley, 1900s Town and Pit Village and 1940s Farm. Visitors to the 350 acre open air museum discover fascinating stories, meet costumed folk and explore homes, shops and other buildings – many of which were moved to the museum from across the region.
Suffolk-based Galloway Travel Group has been bought by Eastern Transport Holdings (ETH), a new holding company directed by Bill Hiron, the managing director of Stephensons of Essex, and past president of the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK.
It is understood that the process of acquisition will be completed by 30 November, with managing director David Cattermole, commercial director John ‘Bernie’ Miles, and financial director Roger Stedman intending to retire from the business.
With immediate effect, Galloway’s directors are delegating day-to-day involvement in the business to their existing management team of Richard Smith, Dan Rogers and Charles Pratt.
Galloway will continue to trade as a stand-alone business, distinct from other operations of ETH, operating from its existing head office and operating base at Mendlesham in Suffolk.
Roger Elsmere, the founder and managing director of Bognor Regis-based Woods Travel, has received industry recognition for his outstanding contribution to coach tourism.
Roger was presented with the Coach Monthly Special Award at this year’s National Coach Tourism Awards (NCTA).
Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset won the award for Coach Friendly Destination of the Year, recognition of the work put in by the Project Coach team of Ian Jefferies and Les Barber. Burnham has been a finalist for the last three years; this time, success was theirs.
Blackburn Market won Coach Friendly Shopping Destination of the Year at the first go, testament to the enthusiasm of the market team.
The Ullswater ‘Steamers’ were celebrating having picked up the award for River and Inland Cruise Operator of the Year, some welcome good news after a winter that saw the floods in the Lake District severely disrupt the company’s operations.
The NCTA, now in its 11th year, and organised by Diversified Communications and Coach Monthly magazine, is the only national awards scheme to specifically focus on coach tourism, recognising excellence and development among coach tour operators, destinations, visitor attractions, tourism suppliers, hotels and other tourism organisations.
The event, held on Wednesday 16 March, and hosted by television personality Anthea Turner, took place at the Vox, Resorts World Birmingham, at the NEC.
For more information about the NCTA, go to www.ncta.co.uk
Here’s the list of this year’s winners:
Coach Friendly Destination of the Year
Sponsored by My Day Out
Coach Friendly Visitor Attraction of the Year
Jointly sponsored by Planet Hollywood and Hospitality Line
Grand Pier, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
Coach Friendly Shopping Destination of the Year
Sponsored by the British Tourism & Travel Show
Blackburn Market, Lancashire
Cross-Sea Carrier of the Year
Sponsored by Edwards Coach Holidays
River and Inland Cruise Operator of the Year
Sponsored by the Coach Tourism Council (CTC)
Ullswater ‘Steamers’, Cumbria
Heritage Railway of the Year
Sponsored by DFDS
Vale of Rheidol Railway, Ceredigion
Accommodation Provider of the Year: Hotel Groups
Sponsored by Fieldfisher
Accommodation Provider of the Year: Individual Hotels
Sponsored by VisitScotland
Rendezvous Hotel, Skipton, North Yorkshire
Ticket Supplier of the Year
Sponsored by West Midland Safari & Leisure Park, Bewdley, Worcestershire
Tour Wholesaler of the Year
Sponsored by P&O Ferries
Greatdays Travel Group
Holiday Programme of the Year
Sponsored by Independent Coach Travel (ICT)
Shaws Coaches, Maxey, Cambridgeshire
Day Excursion Programme of the Year
Sponsored by Warner Leisure Hotels
Johnsons Coach Travel, Warwickshire
Coach Tour Operator Brochure of the Year
Sponsored by Towergate Chapman Stevens
Silver Star Holidays, Gwynedd
Coach Tourism Innovation of the Year
Sponsored by Eurotunnel Le Shuttle
Johnsons Coach Travel, Warwickshire – for ‘Bard on Board’
Coach Tourism Professional of the Year
Sponsored by Group Line
Alan Payling, owner of Coach Drivers Information Pack, Torbay, Devon
Coach Tour Driver of the Year
Sponsored by Cornmarket Insurance Services
Alyn Frankel, tours director at Moving People, Lancashire
Coach Tour Operator of the Year: Small Fleet (1 to 5 coaches)
Sponsored by Norman Allen Group Travel
Fenn Holidays, March, Cambridgeshire
Coach Tour Operator of the Year: Medium Fleet (6 to 15 coaches)
Sponsored by Roadchef
Parrys International Tours, Cheslyn Hey, West Midlands
Coach Tour Operator: Large Fleets (more than 15 coaches)
Sponsored by Wrightsure Insurance Services
Maynes Coaches (Moray and Orkney)
Coach Monthly Special Award
Sponsored by Hilton Worldwide
Roger Elsmere, managing director of Woods Travel, West Sussex