Maybe it’s the publicity given to last year’s centenary of the Chelsea Flower Show, but 2014 interest in tailor-made England-based garden tours is running at a higher level than usual. It’s also still not too late to be planning a small group to this year’s show (May 20-24).
While the lead time might be a bit tight, you may well catch the eye of your garden-loving clients when you tell them you can offer them a tour that brings together either the Keukenhof “Garden of Europe” show and some time in Amsterdam with the 101st staging of the Chelsea Flower Show, or a day at Les Journées des Plantes (aka France’s Chelsea) in the relaxed and informal surroundings of the Parc du Domaine de Courson in Paris, a side trip to Giverny and the Palace at Versailles, before moving on to London by Eurostar and the Chelsea Flower Show.
Don’t forget that many of your clients are totally absorbed in their own gardens or garden shows in the spring and traveling for Chelsea may not work. Help is at hand by offering them a few fragrant, color-filled gardens in the Cotswolds before finishing with a day at the annual and truly spectacular Hampton Court Flower Show (July 8-13).
Speaking of the Cotswolds, an area I know well because I lived there for over five years, keep an eye open for details of an exciting collection of new itineraries centered on a region that runs from Stratford-upon-Avon in the north to Bath in the southwest, with the university city of Oxford as your main gateway when traveling from and back to London.
The Cotswolds is a destination that defines everything you’re looking for in an experience of the real England, bringing together tearooms, pubs, William Morris and the Cotswolds Arts and Crafts Movement, Girls Getaways (including a Golf, Gardens and Antiques tour for women only) and a Walking Festival. Because of its extensive range of award-winning gardens as well as a large selection of privately owned properties that open infrequently for the general public, the Cotswolds is a wonderful place in which travelers can relax so they arrive in London bright eyed and bushy tailed for Chelsea, Hampton Court and everything that our capital city has to offer you.
Finally, if you missed the London Olympics (perhaps out of choice) think seriously of using Chipping Campden, Broadway or Stow on the Wold as a base for a day at the 401st staging of the Robert Dovers Olimpick Games (note the spelling). Packed with races, games, music and entertainment, these traditional Games also include the world famous shin-kicking contest (just don’t get personally involved).
Theatre-loving travelers will enjoy a new program being created in Stratford-upon-Avon as it celebrates the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. One idea that’s caught my eye is a new tour that’s been created by an experienced Shakespearian actor that follows in the Bards footsteps from London to Stratford with some very interesting close encounters along the way.
For the growing number of travel agents interested in developing Girls Getaways, Bath is offering a program devoted to fashion at the beginning of May. Throughout the years the city has always attracted the most fashion-conscious, but between May 3 and 10, visitors will be able to see why Bath continues to play its part in today’s fashion industry by presenting one of the most talked-about fashion gatherings outside London in 2014.
To celebrate the city’s fashionable legacy as a place to be seen, Bath in Fashion will host talks, exhibitions, catwalk shows, workshops and a whole lot more. With some nice additions at the V&A and the Fashion and Design Museum in London, this idea will work well for a small group (8-10) of your female customers.
In addition to conjuring up value-added visits to places of interest, think about working some memorable food experiences into your U.K. itineraries. The Viking city of York has had a long and distinguished association with the chocolate and confectionary industry. Between April 18 and 24, you’ll be able to indulge yourself at the York Chocolate Festival. Almost simultaneously across the Pennine Mountains, the Roman city of Chester will be staging a bumper feast of local food and drink, including tastings of famous red, white and blue Cheshire cheeses.
On the way to and from these two historic cities, pause for a taste of Olde England in Melton Mowbray. Known as a rural capital of food, it is renowned for its fine food and drink, including the famous Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, Stilton Cheese, locally brewed ales and Sloe gin.
So if gardens are on your agenda, think about these new ways of offering the Chelsea Flower Show. And for those travel agents whose clients like to travel less so that they can see and do a great deal more, use the Cotswolds as your base for some truly memorable experiences. Either way let’s work to be even more creative when developing bespoke tours to Britain for FITs, families and groups!
Paull Tickner, creator of Special Interest Britain and an affiliate of Greatdays Travel Group, is an expert in developing customized niche travel programs for the United Kingdom and Ireland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.