Amy Moore details some key anniversaries and attraction openings scheduled for 2016 and beyond
Historic Royal Palaces - Banqueting House
The Banqueting House was initially created for court entertainment, and was the historic site where King Charles I was beheaded in 1649.
New for 2016 is the Lost Palace of Whitehall, which opens for eight weeks over the summer for the first time in 300 years. Using innovative digital techniques, visitors will be escorted around the streets of Whitehall while learning more about the palace’s vibrant history.
Group entry is available via pre-bookable time slots, which could coincide with a Hidden History talk at 1130hrs or alternatively, book a guided tour with an accredited guide.
Trips to the Banqueting House could be combined with a visit to the Household Cavalry Museum, the National Gallery or the National Portrait Gallery.
Please note - the Banqueting House is closed from January to April 2016. There are 20 metered coach bays along Victoria Embankment, with drop-off/pick-up available in Whitehall (groups must register at least 24 hours in advance). To book a timed entry slot to the Banqueting House call 0844 482 7770 or email email@example.com. For more information visit www.hrp.org.uk.
Opening spring 2016, the ArcelorMittal Orbit in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park will see a giant steel tube slide installed, created by Belgian artist Carsten Holler.
The initiative sparks a new interactive art installation for the capital, and will be the worlds longest and tallest tunnel slide, measuring approximately 178-metres long and 76-metres high.
There will be transparent sections on the slide, where passengers can admire the view while weaving in and out of the attraction.
The slide will act as an alternative way to descend from the ArcelorMittal’s viewing platforms. For more information visit www.arcelormittalorbit.com.
Big Bus Tours
Big Bus Tours will be celebrating its Silver Jubilee throughout 2016. The family-owned business began operations in London in June 1991 with a fleet of three buses and has since expanded to a fleet of 400 buses in cities such as Budapest, Dubai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Paris, Shanghai, Vienna and various destinations across America.
Pat Waterman, CEO of Big Bus Tours, said: “We have a focused and determined team, and look forward to working together over the next 25 years to further develop our success story. We really appreciate the opportunity to celebrate this significant milestone with our industry colleagues and valued customers.”
Big Bus Tours recently announced the launch of its latest operation in Rome, which is scheduled to commence this month (December).
Rome marks the eighteenth city in the Big Bus Tours portfolio, and the new destination will feature a hop-on hop-off tour with seven stops. Highlights include the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, Piazza Venezia, the Vatican, Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Tours take approximately one hour and 40 minutes and feature a recorded commentary in five different languages. Group prices for Big Bus Tours in Rome are on a request basis. Individual adult tickets cost €30. For more information visit www.bigbustours.com.
KidZania London is a new, UK-first educational entertainment experience located at Westfield London.
A mock-city for kids, children aged four to 14 can immerse themselves in more than 60 real life role-play adventures, including a Firefighter, Scientist, Radio DJ, Fashion Designer, Pit-Lane Engineer, Surgeon, Pilot, Chocolatiers and even attend university.
Ideal for school groups, the four-hour experience can be cross-referenced to the National Curriculum for Maths, English, Science, Design, Technology and Computing.
Upon arrival, children will receive 50 kidZos – the currency of KidZania – to pay for activities, shopping, save or even open a bank account.
Benefits include a dedicated coach drop-off/pick-up point, free teacher planning tickets, free teacher tickets and kids’ lunch packs from £4 per child.
Corporate events for adults can also be held at KidZania, including champagne receptions, promotional dinners or award ceremonies.
For more information call 0330 131 3331 or visit www.kidzania.co.uk/schools.
Twinings Tea Store
Located at 216 Strand, London, the Twinings Tea Store is a historic shop that is rustic in design and boasts over 300 years of history.
Since Thomas Twining bought the former coffee house in 1706, the site has sold some of the best and most iconic-branded teas in the world.
During Thomas’ time, its location – now opposite the Royal Courts of Justice – straddled the border between Westminster and the City of London, which would have been home to London’s aristocracy following the Great Fire of London in 1666.
Twinings Tea Store serves over 250 tea varieties and sells matching souvenir accessories. Groups of up to 60 can book masterclasses (including a free tea tasting) and larger groups can be accommodated. Masterclasses last around two hours and cost £30 per person.
Open to the public daily, visitors can also pop into the museum of ‘Tea and Twinings.’ For more information visit www.twinings.co.uk/216strand.
Great Western Railway
The Great Western Railway dates back to the 1830s when Isambard Kingdom Brunel first laid the tracks from the southwest.
Nowadays, the Great Western Railway operates services to Bristol, the Cotswolds via Moreton-in-Marsh, Bath, Oxford and Cardiff, alongside coastal trips to Devon and Cornwall aboard Night Riviera Sleeper services and Pullman Dining carriages.
The Great Western Railway allows parties of 10 people to travel for the price of nine on selected routes. Call 03457 000 125 to book or complete a Group Travel Request Form online at www.gwr.com.
#VISITFLANDERS EDUCATIONAL GUIDE
VisitFlanders’ new brochure dedicated to the educational market launched earlier this year. It’s the first time VisitFlanders have produced such a guide for tour operators and teachers travelling to the region. Other themed brochures are available, including Belgian Beer Experiences, Chocolate Experiences and Accessible Travel. For more information visit www.visitflanders.com.
Eurostar is the high-speed train service linking St Pancras International, Ebbsfleet International, Ashford International, Paris, Brussels, Lille, Calais, Disneyland Paris and the French Alps.
Eurostar launched a new South of France service in May 2015, stopping at Lyon, Avignon and Marseille, and is carrying out a complete overhaul of its fleet, which includes the purchase of 17 new e320 trains and the redesign of its existing trains.
The newly remodelled trains from the current fleet will be known as the e300 as they have the capacity to travel up to 300kph, with the e320s reaching up to 320kph. Eurostar’s new e300 trains came into service in September 2015, and its e320 trains should enter service before the end of the year.
Both fleets offer 20% extra seating, state-of-the-art Pininfarina design, as well as WiFi connectivity and onboard entertainment.
Nicolas Petrovic, Chief Executive at Eurostar, said: “After a busy summer and a record breaking month of July with over a million passengers, we are gearing up for the arrival of our new state-of-the-art fleet of trains. As we approach our 21st birthday, our business is really coming of age. With new trains, more seats, transformed interiors and a range of onboard entertainment, our passengers can look forward to an exciting future.”
Eurostar has also announced a new direct service between London and Amsterdam, with services scheduled to commence in 2017.
For more information visit www.eurostar.com.
Train World, Brussels
Train World is a newly-opened museum that displays unique pieces from the history of the Belgian railways. Group bookings are available for 15 people or more, and a special visit with a guide can be organised. For more information or to book visit www.trainworld.be.
Resorts World Birmingham
Resorts World Birmingham is a £150-million leisure complex, which opened to the public on October 21 at the NEC Birmingham.
Owned by the Genting Group, Resorts World Birmingham is home to 50 outlet stores, 18-stylish bars and restaurants, a Medispa and more.
Additionally, the destination has an 11-screen Cineworld cinema, a Genting International Casino and four-star Genting.
Coach parking is available, with exclusive deals for coach operators, group travel organisers and tour operators. This includes a £10 booking fee per passenger, with special group entry and a designated drop-off/pick-up area. Overnight packages are also available.
Upon arrival, each group member will receive a Resorts World Incentive Booklet valued at over £50. To book call 020 351 44606 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit www.resortsworldbirmingham.co.uk or www.resortsworldexpress.co.uk.
The Royal Mint Visitor Centre
Opening spring 2016, the Royal Mint in South Wales is a working factory that celebrates 1,000 years of coin and medal making.
Visitors are taken behind the scenes of the plant which produces approximately 700 coins per minute. Groups have the opportunity to meet experts, while having the option to strike their own coin as a memento of their visit.
Up to 25 people are permitted on the Guided Factory Experience at a time, but larger groups can be accommodated. From a designated viewing area, visitors will be able to observe the hall where thousands of coins are produced. Later, they can explore six self-guided interactive zones at their own pace.
Special group rates are available for parties of 15-plus and visits must be booked in advance. Perks include a free preview visit for the group travel organiser, free entry for the group travel organiser on the day and a refreshment voucher for the coach driver. Free coach parking is available and group dining can be arranged.
Royal Museums Greenwich
In celebration of its 400th-anniversary, Queen’s House will reopen on July 4, 2016, complete with refurbished galleries, including the King’s Presence Chamber and the Tulip Stairs.
New displays will focus on people and events, artists, designers and the architects who are key to the understanding of the building’s history and its relevance today. The galleries will also focus on the strengths of the National Maritime Museum’s world-class art collection.
Group discounts apply to parties of 10 or more, with special travel trade rates. For more information visit www.rmg.co.uk/queens-house.
Enjoy afternoon tea in the Even Keel Café below the Cutty Sark – a ship originally built to bring tea to Britain. Groups can even sample a selection of teas that the ship was built to transport.
Contact the Travel Trade team to find out more about special group catering offers. For more information visit www.rmg.co.uk/cuttysark.
Tate Modern is set to open a new building to the public on June 17, 2016. The project has created 60% more display space, and will feature over 250 artists from around 50 countries.
Designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron, Tate Modern first opened to the public in May 2000 and is located in the former Bankside Power Station.
The new 10-storey building has been built behind the old power station with urban spaces to the south and west, transforming the site into an open, public space.
Inside, visitors can expect to see iconic works by 20th-century figures such as Pablo Picasso, Joseph Beuys and Mark Rothko, alongside more contemporary artists including Saloua Raouda Chouchair, Meschac Gaba and Cildo Meireless.
Many new exhibitions will be introduced in 2016, including an installation of human hair and car bumpers by Sheela Gowda.
Chris Dercon, Director at Tate Modern, said: “Art is one of the most dynamic and engaged forms of human behaviour, and when people step into a museum today, they don’t want to step out of their life, they want to get closer to it. The new Tate Modern will be so much more than a container for art, it will be a platform for human encounters.”
For more information visit www.tate.org.uk.
ZSL London Zoo
Land of the Lions will open at ZSL London Zoo in spring 2016, and will provide state-of-the-art facilities for a breeding group of endangered Asiatic lions (only 500 remain in the wild).
Land of the Lions will cover more than 2,500 square-metres and will be five times the size of the previous enclosure. The attraction is part of the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) public fundraising campaign, which will also support ZSL’s international projects to protect wild Asiatic lions in the Gir Forest in India.
Land of the Lions will give visitors the chance to get up-close to the big cats to see just how closely humans and lions live in the Gir Forest. The National Park is the heart of the attraction and this has been inspired by the landscape of the Gir Forest, and it’s here that visitors will come face-to-face in the 360-degree lions den.
The attraction will have an optional overnight experience, where visitors can spend the night in luxury bespoke accommodation nestled in the heart of the zoo, within walking distance of the lions.
Groups of 10 or more buying tickets for ZSL London Zoo online can save 25%. For more information visit www.zsl.org/zsl-london-zoo.
The record-breaking Brighton i360 will be the world’s first vertical cable car, the world’s tallest moving observation experience and the highest viewing tower in the UK outside of London.
Suitable for group visitors, the 162-metre high attraction can carry up to 200 visitors in a circular glass pod, which has been made fully accessible for wheelchair users.
The ride includes a complimentary handheld multi-media tour, where visitors can learn more about how the tower was built, whilst discovering more about the heritage of Brighton and Sussex. Audio guides are available in multiple languages.
At the base of the Brighton i360 will be a brasserie offering stunning sea views and an outdoor beachside terrace serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. Alternatively, tea is served in the attraction’s heritage tearooms, which will be housed in an 1866 West Pier tollbooth.
Discounted trade and group rates are available, including VIP Fast Track, the Sky Bar Champagne Ride and meal packages.
Bookings are currently being taken for summer 2016. For more information visit www.brightoni360.co.uk.