Category Archives: Blog

19 
Sep

Speciality & Fine Food Fair 2017

Speciality & fine foodAnother September, another Speciality & Fine Food Fair at Olympia. The venue opened its doors to the eager hordes of visitors and exhibitors to this prestigious event from 3 to 5 September.

Open only to the trade, the first show opened 17 years ago and since then, has expanded enormously to embrace all aspects of the speciality food market.

Kara Bowen, Event Manager, said “Speciality & Fine Food Fair has, without a doubt, been at the forefront of the UK’s gourmet food and drink industry for nearly 18 years. Buyers from retail, foodservice and wholesale rely on the Fair as it provides an exclusive opportunity for discovery and inspiration. It is also a fantastic platform for producers to grow their business.”

Debut and Returns

This year, more than 700 food and drink producers attended, including nearly 200 suppliers making their debut. Among a number of new features, the old favourites such as the Discovery Zone, the Great Taste Awards and the Chocolate Trail were eagerly awaited. The Discovery Zone unveiled the latest food and drink delights from new businesses. Its stands are exclusively reserved for companies who have only been trading in the UK for up to 36 months.

Despite the unpopular sugar tax, chocolate and confectionery are still firm favourites. The Speciality & Fine Food Fair is heralded as the UK’s finest trade showcase of luxury and gourmet chocolate. The Speciality Chocolate Trail did not disappoint and led visitors through the halls of Olympia to over 50 fine and artisan chocolate producers.

Flavoursome

Savour the Flavour: Live Kitchen, also drew the crowds. It featured practical tips and advice from some of the industry’s best known chefs and personalities.

This demonstration was supplemented with Food for Thought which offered visitors workshops on trending topics, and Scale Up which provided in-depth round-table discussions on key business queries. Topics covered included Cooking Successfully with Allergies, Mastering Cheese and The Proof is the Provenance.

A company that attracted a lot of interest was Grub, which offered edible insects. Apparently, as well as being tasty, insects are nutritious and sustainable, high in protein, minerals like iron and calcium and containing essential amino acids like Omega 3 and 6!

The Speciality & Fine Food Fair offers a platform for artisan food and drink, from centuries old heritage brands to up-and-coming new food businesses. The success of the 2017 show is to be repeated next year from 2 to 4 September at the same venue.

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Published Date: 19th September 2017
Category: Blog, Catering Business, Events, News
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12 
Sep

Rational Price Increases

Brexit updateThere is no getting away from the fact that Brexit has brought the British pound  to a low. It is the lowest in fact for 31 years. Although this is good news for manufacturing, tourism and exports, it is not so good for an imported product as it leads to a price increase.

Of wider importance this week is the negotiations that the British government can manage regarding access to the EU. And the move announced by the Prime Minister is sending the Opposition up in arms. Mrs May has decided to hold a late-night Commons vote this week to secure for the Government, the authority to use so-called “Henry VIII powers” to hustle in new laws behind the backs of MPs. It’s not gone down too well!

Off With Their Heads!

This is an unprecedented power grab by a minority government that lost its moral authority as well as its majority at the general election,” said Valerie Vaz, Labour’s Shadow Commons Leader.  Just one of many similar outraged comments on the move.

This is important for catering businesses because among the issues expected to be voted on are those that affect the food industry, including protection for British workers and consumers, and environmental standards. This is part of a move towards getting some financial stability back although it may be a long wait.

Small Price Increase

So, back in the real world, businesses are trying to accommodate the weakness of the pound in their daily operations. Here at AC Services (Southern) we are doing the same. Rational has announced they’re increasing the price of cleaning products by c5% on 1st December. This follows the currency movements of the pound and the euro. The falling exchange rate makes our goods more competitive overseas, but it also raises our costs.

We understand that a price increase is unpopular. So we have decided that we are not passing this price increase on for cleaning products ordered by 20th December and despatched in 2017. This gives you an extra month at today’s prices if stock is available.

This excludes the water filters which are made by Brita, the price of which AC Services again has no control over. At present, the filters remain at the same price but due to the ongoing devaluation, there is a strong likelihood that prices could increase. Given that inflation is now also rising from 2.6 to 2.9% pa

So the smart move is to check your stock levels. Buy today to help us, help you to benefit tomorrow on cleaning products for your Rational ovens and keep your costs low.

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Published Date: 12th September 2017
Category: Blog, Cleaning Products, News
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05 
Sep

SafeContractor Accreditation

SafeContractor AccreditationAC Services (Southern) has again received the SafeContractor accreditation. This seal of approval is issued by Alcumus and is testament to the company’s health and safety arrangements, policies and qualifications of contractors. This third party accreditation scheme confirms a company’s competency in the practice of health and safety.

AC Services received the accreditation following a stringent vetting process which examined all health and safety procedures and their track record for safe practice. It is used by thousands of organisations in the UK including SMEs and FTSE 100 companies.

Indeed there are a further 300 nationwide businesses, from several key industries, who have signed up for a separate scheme to select only accredited contractors for services including building, cleaning, maintenance, refurbishment or electrical and mechanical work.

Seal of Approval

AC Services will continue to use the SafeContractor seal of approval on their documentation and marketing material and will be included on the SafeContractor website, accessible only to registered users and signed up client organisations, enabling them to choose a potential accredited contractor.

Gemma Archibald, Director of Alcumus SafeContractor said: “Major organisations simply cannot afford to run the risk of employing contractors who are not able to prove that they have sound health and safety policies in place. More companies need to understand the importance of adopting good risk management in the way that AC Services has done. The firm’s high standard has set an example which hopefully will be followed by other companies within the sector.

Helen Hagger, MD of AC Services is delighted but not surprised at the accreditation. “We take health and safety extremely seriously and our organisation has adhered to the highest standards both in the office and in the field when we service our clients. We are proud to consistently employ best practice in our operations and the SafeContractors seal of approval is testament to this.

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Published Date: 5th September 2017
Category: Blog, Catering Business, News
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30 
Aug

Food Suppliers in and around Bristol

Food SuppliersBristol and South Gloucestershire enjoy a rich harvest when it comes to food from its farm producers and suppliers. 

As the gateway to South West England, the region has much to offer in terms of fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish.

Farm Connections

Powells of Olveston is located in South Gloucestershire and is passionate about the produce it sells, and with good reason.

Powells sources all of its produce locally and ethically, working closely with local farmers and fishermen. This enables it to guarantee traceability on all meat and fish and ensure it is of the highest quality. The company offers lamb, pork (including sausages), chicken, duck, beef and line caught and dayboat caught fish.

It is the fish for which Powells is renowned. It’s wet fish includes cod, bass, dover and lemon sole, pollack, halibut and haddock. While the oily fish includes mackerel, salmon, trout, sardines, herrings and whitebait.

Another company that is making its mark in Bristol is Plough to Plate. Launched in 2003 Plough to Plate has built a superb reputation. So it is known for “sourcing the finest hand crafted and artisan products and supplying them to discerning chefs and specialist retailers throughout the region”.

Plough to Plate offers everything from micro-brewery beers, award-winning cheeses, hand raised pork pies, authentic charcuterie, slow risen breads and artisan chocolates. Billed as “an encyclopedia of regional fine food”, the company also sources unusual or exotic items. These include fresh truffles or a 25-year old DOCG balsamic vinegar. 

Farm Producers

Arthur David promises food with service! Founded in 1962, the company now grows its own produce, often supplying products unavailable at market. Fruit is succulent, such as red skinned Victoria plums as well as Muscat grapes, Discovery apples, English Somerset cobnuts. While vegetables available include baby leeks, baby carrots, baby turnips and all the coloured baby beets. More unusual vegetables include new season coloured carrots in purple, white and yellow, along with a range of  purple and orange cauliflowers.

Another of the farm producers is Frocester Fayre Farm Shop. It has an abundance of meat, from Welsh Black and Aberdeen Angus cattle reared at Church Farm. All cattle are fed on a diet of grass, silage and barley, all grown on the farm. 150 hens and 20 ducks supply the shop and kitchen with eggs.

The owners butcher and sell all the meat in the shop. With the pork and lamb left to hang for a week, whilst the beef is hung for a minimum of three weeks. From this meat come delicious sausages, burgers, meat products and delicious faggots, all made in the farm shop’s kitchen.

Frocester aims to “use as many local ingredients as we can  keeping ‘food miles’ and our ‘carbon footprint’ to a minimum. We are a genuine family business and our aim is to give all our customers excellent quality food at affordable prices”.

Finally, Jekka’s Herb Farm farm boasts the largest collection of culinary herbs in the UK. Jekka’s Herbetum was created in the grounds of the farm in 2013. It is a gastronomic delight for anyone interested in good food containing over 300 culinary herbs carefully planted in raised beds.

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Published Date: 30th August 2017
Category: Blog, Catering Business, News
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22 
Aug

Bridge Farm Shop Success

John Thorners PiesMr Jon Thorner has been making pies for over a decade and having been in the meat industry since 1979, it’s no surprise that his pies are always amongst the best in the South West of England.

Today they win a number of awards for their pies, which are available in a range of sizes and flavours from traditional steak and ale or kidney to the more exotic Bombay chicken or Chinese duck and cherry.

Farm produce

Jon Thorner’s Bridge Farm Shop in Pylle, Shepton Mallet produces thousands of both savoury and sweet products every week from the kitchens.

Head chef, John Emery is in charge of the kitchens and his saving grace is his ovens, two Rational models both of which he swears by. “We bought the first 11 years ago then as the business expanded and demand for our products became greater, we invested in a second model four years later,” he explains.

He readily admits that without them, the shop would not be able to maintain the output: currently they are used 24 hours a day, six days a week. “We only close them down on Friday until Saturday morning, when they are cleaned and made ready for the next shift,” continues John.

A local of Somerset and with a background in farming and butchery, Jon Thorner’s legacy began by providing quality locally sourced meat and since 1979, the shop has grown exponentially to produce pies, quiches, savouries, ready meals, desserts and cakes. Each pie is still hand crimped and individually filled and the awards have flooded in, with accolades from Great Taste, British Pie Awards, Taste of the West and Smithfield Awards.

Top Quality

Bridge Farm Shop piesQuality and provenance are the key words when it comes to sourcing the meat, with the company only using certified West Country beef, English free range pork and British poultry, and whenever possible, sourced locally. Many of the suppliers to the Bridge Farm Shop are located within 10 miles of the shop. It doesn’t get more local than that! The company also offers pre-packed meat as well as ready meals, most of which are cooked on the Rational ovens.

The most important element in kitchen equipment is reliability,” says John. “We have an arrangement with AC Services (Southern) to have the ovens serviced on an annual basis. We also have a contract for ad hoc services, which means if anything goes wrong unexpectedly, then an engineer will be dispatched immediately to help us. To be honest, there is little need for this service, but we have encountered slight problems with limescale-related issues that the engineers have been able to sort straight away.”

The Bridge Farm Shop has an enviable reputation and maintaining the quality of the food is paramount. “Whether we are baking pies or quiches or cakes, the Rational ovens provide perfect results every time and we fully expect them to continue to the same standard in years to come,” concludes John.

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Published Date: 22nd August 2017
Category: Blog, Case Study, News
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15 
Aug

Hotel and Hospitality Staff Threat

Hotel and Hospitality StaffLeaving the EU is causing all sorts of speculation about labour implications and shortages and the hotel and hospitality industry is amongst the most concerned.

Recent research has suggested that the sector’s workforce could begin to drop by 2021. Given that the industry employs almost 10% of the entire UK workforce and since the economic crisis has grown its contribution to the economy faster than any other sector, it is a valid concern.

Currently, hospitality is the sixth largest contributor to export earnings and fourth largest employer, accounting for 4.49 million people or 10% of the workforce and over 180,000 businesses.

EU Workers and a Booming Market

The sector’s economic contribution could now decrease due to cost pressures from wages and business rates together with the labour squeeze. Figures show that around 65,000 hospitality staff come from EU workers. If this workforce is unavailable then labour productivity will cease to improve and will remain at 2016 levels. The report suggests a “1% fall in the number of people directly employed in the sector compared to 2016 to 3.17m, with the economic contribution the sector makes also starting to fall from its current level of £73bn.”

It’s not all bad news: the hotel industry has been booming . London is predicted to be at 80% occupancy by the end of the year, with average room prices reaching £142 and 8,000 new rooms in the pipeline. ‘Staycationers’ are being credited with a rise in regional travel, with more domestic visitors travelling around the UK.

To fill the potential labour force gap, plans are already in place. According to Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association, “over 700,000 Europeans work in hospitality and tourism and although we are determined to rely less on EU service workers over the coming years it will take time. The industry would need to recruit an additional 65,000 UK workers each year in addition to the ongoing recruitment of 200,000 workers to replace churn and to power growth.”

Filling the Void

The BHA is calling for a detailed study by the Migration Advisory Committee on behalf of the government on the number of visas. This should cover “all strategically important sectors including hospitality and tourism, the fourth largest industry in the UK. Britain needs services workers as well as scientists and engineers.”

However, the Office for National Statistics reported an increase of 13.6% since last year in the number of 16-24 year-olds not in education, employment or training (NEET). This, according to the BHA is a labour force! And it’s not the only sector of society that has potential. “[Our] strategy focuses on three main sections of the populations – the unemployed, returners to the labour market such as older people, and the next generation. So far our industry has delivered 67,000 apprenticeships, work experiences, and career opportunities through the BHA’s Big Hospitality Conversation for Britain’s young people,” continues Ufi Ibrahim.

The hotel and hospitality industry offers a massive opportunity for those who are unemployed, looking to enter the workplace or who want a career change, from front of house to backroom staff to kitchen operatives. Calls for government to enhance and promote those opportunities are welcomed by all to ensure we have the hospitality staff we need.

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Published Date: 15th August 2017
Category: Blog, Catering Business, News
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08 
Aug

Theme Park Attractions

Theme Park AttractionsWe as a nation love theme park attractions. We visit them in droves during the open season and enjoy whatever they offer, be it rides, thrills or simply aesthetic architecture.

During the summer season, we cannot rely on the weather to be clement enough for us to spend a day at the beach so for many, the welcome attraction of a theme park or other local venues is quite literally, a port in a storm.

Amusement parks are popular destinations throughout the world generating billions in revenue for the relevant countries and operators. The largest and most profitable is beyond doubt the Walt Disney Company with more than 16 billion U.S. dollars in revenue from its parks followed by Universal Studios Theme Parks.

Although the UK is unable to compete on such a scale, the amusement parks that we have see significant visitors annually. Alton Towers competes with Thorpe Park and Drayton Manor Park as the leading theme park attractions in the UK. In 2016, the most visited free attraction was, for the ninth consecutive year, The British Museum with nearly 6.5 million visitors. This was closely followed by the National Gallery which had more than 6.2 million visitors and the Tower of London topped the list of paid-for attractions with 2.7 million visitors.

Going to the Zoo

Interestingly, Chester Zoo experienced its highest ever ranking, in second place, with nearly 1.9 million visitors and this seems to be a new trend, as a new survey from VisitEngland shows that gardens and zoos saw the most significant growth in visitors to attractions last year. The survey collected information from over 1,500 English attractions, and reported that stately houses and castles saw an increase of 7% in visitor numbers, and country parks a 4% increase. Gardens and zoos showed a growth of 8%.

According to VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe, “there are so many outstanding attractions offering year-round experiences throughout the country and it’s great to see Brits enjoyed 2016’s ‘Year of the English Garden’. Attractions are a much loved and valuable part of the tourism landscape, adding colour and variety to the visitor experience and encouraging people to get out and explore, driving the value of tourism across the regions.”

Wild Ride

However, if you prefer the thrills and spills of adrenaline pumping rides, then you will have to wait another five years for what is being deemed the biggest, best and most advanced theme park to hit UK shores…a theme park to rival Disneyland Paris! 

London Resort Company Holdings (LRCH), is behind the idea and is planning to have the resort constructed on the Swanscombe Peninsula in North Kent to be opened by 2022. The company has stated that it would create at least “five themed areas including a cartoon circus, Starfleet Command, Action Square, Port Paramount and Entertainment City”.

If the plans are approved then the theme park would not only offer more than 50 rides but it would also come with a 2,000 seat theatre putting on shows to rival the best of the West End. Rides at the park will be inspired by Paramount Films as well as the BBC and Aardman Animations.

There is no doubt that theme park attractions bring in a fortune in revenue to the UK with caterers and catering staff comprising a major part of the workforce. At AC Services (Southern), we have a vested interest in all food and drink related issues, so we welcome the possible arrival of a new theme park.

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Published Date: 8th August 2017
Category: Blog, Catering Business, News
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01 
Aug

South West Summer Events 2017

South West Summer EventsSo far the summer has been a success with hundreds of events being staged across the South West and people enjoying a few good weeks of sun. Now all schools have broken up and the annual problem of what to do with the kids is yet again frustrating parents. Now is the time to check out the many South West summer events of which here is a sample.

A well-hidden treasure is to be found at Morwellham Quay,  a beautifully preserved Victorian village in Devon. This is a World Heritage site on the River Tamar, which features an historic port, a village and a copper mine.

However, Morwellham is better known for its narrow-gauge Mine Railway, which transports visitors along the banks of the Tamar and into the George and Charlotte copper mine. Here, the past is brought to life with real insights into the working conditions of Victorian miners. From 12 – 13 August, the venue is holding a Summer Festival of Steam Punk, celebrating the anniversary of Queen Victoria’s visit featuring music, dancing and lots of other events.

Revisit Camelot

Glastonbury Abbey is hosting a King Arthur Workshop throughout the month of August which is guaranteed to keep the younger and older members of the family interested. Members of the Living History Team will be offering King Arthur-themed interactive family drama workshops, travelling back in time to the days of the Round Table and Excalibur. The event promises to be great fun for the whole family who can discover the past in unique style and see the myths and legends of Arthurian times from a new angle. The event runs on various dates from 1 – 29 August.

The ‘Midsummer Mayhem’ Family Fun Day is taking place on 5 August at The Bishops Palace in Wells Somerset. The South Lawn will be given over to the annual day with games for all ages, a bouncy castle, dressing up, face painting, crafts and activities and whether you bring a picnic or enjoy the food from The Bishop’s Table, the event is expected to draw large crowds.

Dip into the Arts

If however, you want some quality adult time for yourself, then take yourself down to the Iford Arts Festival, an internationally renowned event taking place in the Peto Garden of Iford Manor, near Bath in the South West of England.

According to the website, “captivating and intimate opera performances are staged in-the-round for an audience of 90 in the miniature Italianate cloister and are all sung in English.” Informal promenades are on offer together with seated cloister concerts are part of the festival programme and the award winning gardens present the perfect backdrop.

Finally, make a note in your diaries (4 November) for the Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival, the UK’s largest winter carnival. It has its roots back in the 1600s, when the people of Somerset took effigies of Guy Fawkes to be burnt after the foiled Gunpowder plot. Nowadays, the procession comprises over 100 bright floats, music and dancing and is visited by crowds of up to 150,000, who all stay around until the procession ends to watch ‘squibbing’, described as “an explosive tradition where hundreds of fireworks on sticks are held out along the road, giving the effect of light raining down.”

There are so many South West summer events,  why not take advantage of the events on offer and take a day out to visit the region to see for yourself.

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Published Date: 1st August 2017
Category: Blog, Events, News
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25 
Jul

Save Money by Servicing and On-line Shopping

AC Services keeping chefs using Rational ovens happyClients often ask AC Services Southern why we recommend a full annual service on their Rational appliances. Surely regular cleaning and standard maintenance practices are enough to maintain the performance of the ovens?

The truth is that however much and however meticulously you clean your oven, like your own car, there is still the need for a regular Rational service to optimise or replace the parts which wear.

So for the diligent as well as those absent-minded oven owners out there, we have a solution. We have been using a new system since April. We now log when ovens are serviced and sending a timely reminder when the next service is due.

Service Essentials

At AC Services we like to give back to our loyal customers so read on to see how you can SAVE £10 on online orders. We are the Rational Service Partner for South West England and South Wales. Our team of engineers only repair and maintain Rational ovens and Frima Vario Cooking Centres. That places us in the very safe position of knowing exactly what we are looking for and what we are doing.

Our engineers have over 40 years’ experience between them and as we only work on two pieces of equipment, all the engineers have a van full of Rational original parts. What this means is that in the majority of cases (more than 95%), our engineers will have any parts that may be required so we will be able to quote you the price and fit them there and then, if given the go ahead.

So what happens in a service and how long does it take? Ideally, our engineers will spend at least 1½ hours and often two hours fully checking the appliance. Why so long? Check out the key points on our service checklist.

  • Installation,
  • Door function tests
  • Interior cabinet tests
  • Control panel function check
  • Exhaust/vent hood function test/commissioning
  • Electrical safety test
  • Water-drain function test
  • Steam generator electrical components
  • Gas specific parts
  • Gas analysis
  • Software update 

Cost Efficiency

The second question is cost. Is it cost effective in the long term?

The cost of a full Rational service carried out by one of our fully qualified Rational Engineers starts from £165 plus VAT (depending on age and size of the oven) plus the cost of any parts required, which are discussed and costed before fitting. Any extra hours are charged at £44 plus VAT, in increments of 15 minutes.

A breakdown or repair callout costs £121 plus VAT inclusive of the callout and one hour’s labour, with further labour charged at £44 per hour in increments of 15 minutes. For those who feel this is too much of a layout, just add up the costs of loss of business, of reputation, of loyal customers and of the profit margin should you be unable to use your oven to provide food for customers.

Customer Discounts

Finally, we love offering our customers discounts. So save £10 per shop on our range of Rational Cleaning, Rinse and Care Tablets for the relevant ovens and Rational Grill Cleaner using the code JUL10 in our on-line store before 12th August 2017.

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Published Date: 25th July 2017
Category: Blog, Cleaning, News, Service plan
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18 
Jul

Tourism in Britain 2017

Tourism in Britain 2017It seems that despite the negativity and uncertainty post-Brexit, tourism in Britain has done rather well out of the decision to leave the EU.

The sudden currency depreciation triggered by the June 2016 decision brought sterling to its lowest level against the dollar for over 30 years. As a result, July 2016 was a record month for inbound visits from EU countries with 2.3 million visits, 3% up on last year. And the trend has continued.

According to forecasts, inbound tourism in Britain will continue to be the fastest growing tourism sector. International visitors are expected to grow by over 6% a year in comparison with domestic spending by UK residents at just over 3%.

In 2016, 37.6 million overseas visitors came to the UK in 2016 spending £22.5 billion. These record breaking figures represent a 4% increase in volume compared with 2015. It gets even better when compared with figures just released, that overseas residents made 3.7 million visits to the UK in April 2017, an increase of 19% when compared with April 2016.

Where Do They Come From?

France, USA and Germany were the top three countries in terms of number of visits to the UK accounting for 39% of visits. Inbound visitor spend was highest in London with 53%, the rest of England 35%, Scotland 8% and Wales 2%.

Visitors from the USA spent £3bn in Britain for the first time, while visits from China, the world’s largest outbound market, increased by 46%, with spending up 18%. According to a report in the Guardian, “UK hotel chains have reported a leap in tourist spending since the vote, while the home lettings website Airbnb said its UK-listed properties welcomed 1.6 million guests between June and August [2016].”

Where Do They Go?

For the tenth year in a row, the most popular British tourism attraction was the British Museum with 6,420,395 visitors in 2016. Outside of London, the most popular attraction last year has surprised many, with Chester Zoo attracting more visitors than the likes of Stonehenge and Edinburgh Castle.

The Tate Modern increased its popularity, due mainly to the new 10-storey extension which was opened in 2016, leading to an increase of 24% of visitors on the previous year. In 2016, 1.38 million people visited Stonehenge.

In employment terms, tourism has consistently been the fastest growing sector in the UK, and forecasts indicate that by 2025, the industry will be worth over £257 billion. It supports almost 3.8 million jobs, which is around 11% of the total UK number. This is excellent news for an industry that has been beset with difficulties, not least the terrorism acts that have threatened to destabilise travel and tourism.

The UK has always had a massive tourism potential, and has been exploiting this potential overseas. Post Brexit and the decline of the pound, it is now cheaper to come to the UK than ever before and people are taking advantage. For those businesses involved in tourism in Britain, there has never been a better time to capitalise on an enthusiastic and lucrative market.

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Published Date: 18th July 2017
Category: Blog, Catering Business, News
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