Tag Archives: Attractions
The weather, the political climate and worry about travelling abroad are all factors that help British attractions. The staycation ethos has led to more Brits staying at home and enjoying some homegrown comforts. These include visits to some of the many attractions to be found around the UK.
Brits are choosing leisure activities over holidays abroad in 2019. Spending was on average £90 a month in 2018 on leisure activities based on Office of National Statistics’ data. This is expected to jump to £163 a month this year, equating to £8.2 billion in total across the UK. Part of that increase will be spent on catering.
Legoland in Windsor emerged as the most visited amusement park in the UK in 2018; recording an attendance of 2.32 million. It was followed closely by Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and Chessington World of Adventures. The four dominate the list as the most visited theme parks in the UK.
But as far as other attractions go, there are plenty around the country. According to a report in March, visitor numbers at UK attractions such as museums, galleries, zoos, castles and country houses rose in this period by 9% despite fewer overseas tourists. So positive news for catering businesses able to reach this potential market.
More and Less Visitors
Tate Modern knocked the British Museum off the top spot which it held for 11 years. Statistically, Scotland outperformed the rest of the UK for the seventh year running. It had a 19.07% increase due in part to more flights to the country, investment by the Scottish government and lottery into the sector and an increase in film and TV tourism.
However, the climate, including the hot summer and Beast from the East storms played a major role in decreasing numbers for some outdoor attractions. Attendance at Bristol Zoo was down 8.6% and Whipsnade Zoo down 7.6%. The most-visited attraction outside London in England was Chester Zoo and the most-visited heritage site was Stonehenge.
Food as Part of the Attraction
Tourism is the UK’s fifth-biggest industry and third-biggest employer. Some attractions are using their imagination to entice visitors in, such as Alton Towers with its Rollercoaster Restaurant. Food arrives by rollercoaster, with the décor reflecting the roller coaster ride.
Food is part of the experience. This is shown by the success of a very unusual theme park a bit further afield. In South Korea there is a theme park dedicated entirely to cheese. The Imsil Cheese Park offers 32 acres of trails and attractions, all of which offer various tributes and nods to cheese. There is a notable absence of rollercoasters; but visitors can enjoy themed walking trails, mini cheese-themed rides, cheese-making classes, and buildings that look like blocks of cheese.
And this theme is filtering into the UK with a new restaurant under proposal in London with DC Entertainment. The application states: “the restaurant will be rooted within the DC Multiverse, taking visitors on a culinary adventure through the many fictional Universes famous for their superhero residents such as Batman, Superman and Wonderwoman. The restaurant will not be a ‘theme park’ with literal sets and costumes from the franchise, but it has the intention to invite guests to experience the DC Universe.”
All this goes to show that fast, scary rides are not necessarily the main attraction and incorporating a culinary experience with a theme may be the way forward for some enterprising food entrepreneur. Or perhaps the linking of current venues outside of theme parks for mutual benefit which worked well for Ludlow.
This summer has reinforced the great British love of visiting amusement and theme parks. The fabulous weather has been a godsend to these venues. An increased amount of visitors are taking advantage of a thoroughly enjoyable, dry day out.
Globally, attendance at the world’s top theme park groups increased by 8.6% from 438 million to 476 million visitors in 2017. Figures suggest that this year, it will be even higher. Globally, Disney theme parks dominate the market, with the USA leading the way in numbers and profit.
In 2017 in the UK, surprisingly, Legoland came out ahead of both Alton Towers and Thorpe Park in terms of attendance and profit. However, the usual suspects of bad weather, economic decline and political instability last year are the main reasons behind a less-than-enthusiastic public and lacklustre results.
Pressure for New Experiences
There is constant pressure on theme park and amusement parks to enhance the experience to attract more visitors. Unfortunately, confidence has been hit when it comes to new rides. Too many teething problems and horror stories have emerged in the past few years and the public are therefore wary of racing to try new rides. So the call is for new attractions to be multifaceted to embrace new technologies.
Technology to the Rescue
Virtual reality is well established in the gaming world and some believe that it has a future in theme parks. The idea is that VR can revitalise an old ride with significantly less cost than building a brand new one. It can also add a new dimension to a branded attraction. This is exemplified by Europa-Park in France developing a new VR Paddington attraction and Hong Kong set to open its first VR roller coaster.
Augmented reality is another revelation that can be of use to theme parks. AR overlays the real world with the digital world, rather than replacing it. Both Disney and Apple are expressing interest in the AR trend. Disney filed a patent for projection-based AR to enable visitors to experience AR without headsets. The technology is in its infancy but it is one to be watched.
Disney is also looking further into bots, filing a patent for robot characters. Japan based theme park Huis Ten Bosch has announced that two thirds of its staff will be replaced by robots. This leads to speculation that bots could have a future in managing the infrastructure of attractions and reducing labour costs.
Finally, facial and voice recognition are expected to play a major role in the design and operation of interactive rides in the future where guests control the outcome or path of the experience. Disney is believed to be looking into rides that can be customised from reading the visitor’s emotional reactions based on facial recognition.
Keep Up With Modern Trends
Amusement and theme parks are constantly evolving to make the experience even better for visitors. Modern technology is expected to play a major role in the future. With this new level of sophistication comes an opportunity for street vendors and caterers to provide food and beverages that challenge the traditional fare of burger, chips, pizza and hot dogs.
The price of theme park entry encourages a full day visit rather than a few hours. Catering must therefore optimise the opportunity to offer a wide variety of food for all mealtimes.
It’s getting close to one of the biggest summer events of the year. Now people are deciding where they are going to be. In the pub? With friends? A street party? Yes, it’s the annual FA Cup Final on May 19. And apparently there’s the little matter of a Royal Wedding in London on the same day!
Hot on the heels of the birth of Prince Louis, the Royals will yet again be forced into the spotlight. Every aspect of the bride will be scrutinised from dress, shoes, hair and makeup to bridesmaids and family members. In parallel with the infamous Edward VIII, the global scrutiny will yet again be on an American divorcee’s influence on the Royal family. It will be a day to remember.
Festivals and Events
The wedding heralds the arrival of the summer entertainment season, with festivals and events happening all around the South West and Wales. There’s plenty to choose from.
If you are looking for something a bit different, try the Pop-up Pandas art installation at Longleat Safari & Adventure Park with over 100 painted pandas to discover. Each panda is hand-painted. Themes range from different artistic styles and elements of Chinese culture to English seasonal events and clothing traditions. The exhibition opens on 5 May.
How about celebrating Somerset Day? Held on May 11th, it honours King Alfred the Great’s routing of the Vikings from his Somerset stronghold in May 878? The day is actually more like a week. So there is plenty to do, from the Cheese and Cider Night at Wincanton Racecourse to the Great Somerset Tea Party.
The Foodies Festival, the UK’s biggest food festival returns to Durdham Downs, Bristol from May 11-13, featuring Great British Bake Off winners baking live in The Cake & Desserts Theatre and top local chefs cooking their signature recipes in the Stoves Chefs Theatre. There are workshops galore including Prosecco and parmesan tasting, beer and chocolate tasting. As well as talks on the power of plant-based proteins and Kombucha.
Since being founded in 2004 as part of the Cowbridge Charter Trust’s 750-year celebrations, Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival has grown from a one-day event to a whole weekend of foodie family fun. Now it has over 100 food and drink exhibitors, food demonstrations, musical entertainment. All spread around the town of Cowbridge.
If you are looking for somewhere later in the summer, make your way to Wales for the Big Cheese 27 to 29 July. Set in one of Europe’s largest castles, Caerphilly hosts an extravaganza of street entertainers, living history encampments, music, dance, traditional funfair, folk dancing, falconry, fire eating, minstrels, and troubadours. Attracting over 80,000 people annually, the Big Cheese weekend is a free event.
So what do all these summer events have in common (apart from the wedding!)? Each took a local interest, turned it into a reason to celebrate and then into an annual event. Often it’s a group of businesses coming together for mutual benefit.
Yes summer events might be hassle to organise. But much like Christmas they provide valuable revenue and profit for the catering trade.
As the gateway to South West England, the region has much to offer in terms of fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry and fish.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 .”
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.
In 2015, hordes of Gromits were spotted in Bristol as part of the Bristol Children’s Hospital’s Grand Appeal. They raised money for the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children and St Michael’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (Special Care Baby Unit).
Now it’s the turn of the people of the Cotswolds to expect something unusual in their towns and villages. This time, there are hares; lots of hares. The Cotswold Hare Trial is a trail of public art sculptures of over 80 five-foot high hares, decorated by professional, amateur and community group artists.
Aimed at raising public awareness for creativity in the everyday world, the sculptures are strategically placed across 28 towns and villages throughout the Cotswolds for six months.
The Cotswold Hare initiative has been warmly embraced by local businesses and community organisations. It has created an accessible open-air art gallery in the region. The Cotswolds covers almost 800 square miles and runs through the counties of Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire and Worcestershire.
Not only is the art visually accessible, but the hares can be touched and people are encouraged to handle and engage with the art. According to the organisers of the March Hare Trail, “the hares are designed to promote an emotional response with people expressing a wide range of positive reactions. Their engagement is often felt moving many to tears and enabling people to connect to the pieces through their feelings.”
Children in particular are enjoying the hares. Some of the hares have been designed and decorated by school children from nursery age to the students in higher education. At the end of the festival, an auction of the sculptures will be held, with art auctions houses and art galleries across the UK and abroad following its progress.
“This enables us to put back money into the community which has supported us. This year National Star and local museums being the beneficiaries of our net profits. The Festival retains its not-for-profit status returning any monies raised back into the project,” comment the organisers.
For inns, pubs and restaurants around the area, the festival is a welcome tourist attraction, enticing visitors from far and wide. It offers the opportunity for many establishments whom AC Services supports such as the Inn at Fossebridge and the Crown of Crucis in Cirencester as well as the Egypt Mill in Nailsworth to open their doors to those on the trail of hares.
Both Royal Oak, Tetbury and Old Bell, Malmesbury are sponsoring hares. We hope they have as much fun as we did when we sponsored our Gromit. Without the sponsors there would be no trail and a lot less fun to be had by all.
Finding a route
One of our team has already started to work out a route to tick off a number of our customers and hares. He starts at the Sixteen Restaurant & Café, Witney, then to the Angel Inn, Burford before heading north to Stow on the Wold (No 4 @ Stow) and Broadway’s Dormy House Hotel and Russells.
Then a little west to Winchcombe (the Lion Inn) before the spa splendour of Cheltenham’s Daffodil and Wild Beer Co. South to Stroud (Bisley House Café) before arriving in the Capital of the Cotswolds, Cirencester. Its 20 hares would account for a day themselves. His route ends in Tetbury’s Priory Inn!
Thankfully our engineers don’t usually cover so many clients in one trip. And it would be silly not to spend some time with each hare on the way and visit their sponsors.
“Events such as the Cotswold Hare are welcomed by our Cotswold customers as visitors can see for themselves the beauty and hospitality of the Cotswold communities from hamlets to cities,” comments Helen Hagger of AC Services (Southern). The festival runs until September with the auction taking place in October.
According to a 2016 report, the UK events industry sector is worth a minimum of £42.3B to the UK economy. Conferences and meetings are the most lucrative, followed by exhibitions and trade events with sporting events a close third.
With over 25,000 businesses in the sector, it is a market that is continuing to grow and for caterers, this presents an ideal opportunity.
2016 saw a notable rise in demand for conferences and meetings. This has been put down to the growing need for companies to communicate with staff and contacts face-to-face.
In addition, certain industries, such as pharmaceutical and finance, have seen changes to laws and regulations. This has led to a rise in meetings, as companies rush to update staff. Add Brexit to the mix as companies meet with clients to discuss the proposed changes and the result is clear: corporate is coming back.
The rise of the unusual venue
There are more than 7,000 major outdoor events held each year from festivals, agricultural shows, sporting and charity events through to smaller local craft events. This shows the capacity of the UK events industry to effectively host such events.
One area that has been increasing in popularity is the unique and unusual venue market. These venues range from wineries, sporting stadia, guildhalls, zoos, ships, theatres, castles, racecourses, visitor attractions, museums and distilleries. In fact anywhere that can accommodate people.
Unusual venues have always been very popular for corporate events. The government and public sector are particularly fond of unusual venues, which are used for 30% of their business.
However, choosing an unusual venue is not a random act. Corporate organisers choose a venue that has to motivate, inspire and encourage their clients. Although the classic purpose-built conference centre or hotel group still take most market share, unusual and unique venues are rapidly catching up.
How unique are you?
Unique is described as “something arresting, with individualism and personality, something outside of convention, defined by its difference”. Unusual venues offer rarity, and are pleasantly surprising, and rewarding and often capitalise on the UK’s culture, history and heritage. Castles and museums may be tourist attractions but for the events organisers, they’re also ideal venues.
Regardless of the venue, attendees have to be fed, and for the catering industry the UK events market is massively lucrative. If you are involved in catering, keep your eyes open for venues that could be suitable for corporate meetings and suggest them to events organisers. Or maybe suggest your own venue. Meetings and conferences are making a comeback, so make sure you jump on the bandwagon!
Despite the current economy, theme parks are still one of the most popular visitor attractions with new rides pushing us to the limits in terms of fear and thrills.
And figures from VisitEngland have shown that so far, the Brexit effect has been positive. Only a minority of businesses have so far seen any referendum impact and this is mainly confined to accommodation rather than attractions businesses.
The impact of leaving the EU to date is on balance positive for domestic visitors, but slightly negative for overseas visitors. What this means is that in the UK, we are still visiting attractions and still spending money.
Review Your Oven
Catering at theme parks is big business. It’s hard to gauge how many burgers and hot dogs are flipped throughout the summer months! Winter is the ideal time to review ovens and other catering appliances.
Here at AC Services, we recommend that caterers take advantage of the down time and book a full service. We can check over the ovens and run diagnostics to ensure that they are in excellent working order, ready for next season’s opening.
Although many venues will be closing to the public, others will be embracing the seasonal festivities ahead, such as Halloween and Christmas. These events pull in thousands of attendees and for caterers, it is a busy time. Halloween is usually when the fun starts. Although with the trend for killer clowns sweeping the country, it may seem that Halloween has started earlier this year.
Many theme parks and attractions diversify and stage themed dinners and parties. To be a good caterer, you need a good oven that can handle the extra workload. So if you are struggling with your old oven, think about investing in the Rational range such as the SelfCookingCenter XS. This was only launched last month. It is the smallest-ever Rational unit which still offers full Rational power and intelligence and an integrated fresh steam generator. It is ideal for use as a station unit where space is at a premium.
Every caterer has to adapt to the seasonal load. Autumn and winter are traditionally seasons where mass catering is at a premium. Take the time now before the rush starts to check your oven and your cooking environment. If you haven’t already done so, book a service. Simply call AC Services on 01454 322222 and we will help you with our advice and expert knowledge