The British Airways i360 in Brighton is understood to be on track to open in time for the school summer holidays in July.
The passenger ‘pod’ is now in place and testing it up and down the tower will begin in the next few weeks.
The British Airways i360, which has attracted considerable interest from coach tour operators and group travel organisers, was due to start testing in March. However, it is understood that the delay has been caused by what the attraction says has been a re-ordering of the schedule of activity on the site.
Talking to The Argus newspaper, Eleanor Harris, the i360’s chief executive, says: “British Airways i360 is on track to open this summer, in time for the school summer holidays. Tickets will go on sale next month when we announce our exact opening date. Over the next month we will also see the pod start to move and the lights will be switched on, which we are very excited about.”
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.
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.”