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Tourism businesses from all over South Wales came together to provide a warm Welsh welcome for the cream of the UK's travel trade despite the low temperatures.
Coach and tour operators and high quality group travel organisers descended on the Best Western Heronston Hotel in Bridgend for a two day showcase of group attractions 1-3 February.
Arranged by Southern Wales Tourism and co-ordinated by country-wide tourism specialists from Hampshire Steve Reed Tourism, the event set out to create new and high quality group bookings for businesses across the region.
A Welcome to South Wales dinner took place at the Heronston Hotel complete with a delicious themed menu including Welsh lamb and Welsh Cakes! Caricaturist 'Picasso Griffiths' entertained the VIP guests with quick-fire drawings of the delegates as a memento of their visit. And background music of a Welsh harpist set the scene.
A full day of fact-finding visits to attractions was followed by an intensive 'Meet the Buyer' Workshop in the Great Hall of Caerphilly Castle.
The group of tour buyers were taken on a whistle-stop familiarisation visit to numerous group-friendly sites around South Wales, all from their handy Bridgend base. These included Caerleon Roman Town near Newport; Caldicot Castle; the Shire Hall in Monmouth; the Guardian mining disaster Monument at Six Bells and the Welsh Whisky Distillery in Penderyn. The day included a scenic trip through the Wye Valley past such popular group sites as Tintern Abbey and Chepstow Racecourse.
And a showround at Ty Newydd Country Hotel preceded a memorable night of entertainment and dinner at the historic Llancaiach Fawr Manor in Nelson.
Exhibitors at the 'Meet the Buyer' Workshop at Caerphilly Castle read like a who's who of Welsh tourism with numerous destinations, attractions, hotels and venues represented there, all keen to meet and do business face to face with the many buyers. They included Visit Wales, the Royal Mint, McArthur Glen Designer Outlet and Cadw - Heritage Wales.
First Great Western Rail sponsored a return rail trip from London Paddington to Cardiff for a number of top tour buyers including MIKI Travel and Angela Shanley Associates. Mainline Coaches from Porth provided the coach transport for the event. Blue Badge Guide Steve Griffin looked after the tour group during their familiarisation visits around South Wales.
Vicky Jones is the Project Officer for Southern Wales Tourism:
'We are very happy indeed with the high quality of the event and the superb welcome given to our special guests by our tourism partners. South Wales looked at its best despite the cold weather and we are confident that many of the tourism businesses involved will receive valuable long term bookings as a result of the initiative, says Vicky.
The event really helped put Southern Wales firmly onto the tourism map thinks Steve Reed of Steve Reed Tourism Ltd:
'Most of the many buyers attending the event had never been to South wales before or not for many a year - so the initiative was an opportunity to really showcase some of the wonderful and very diverse offerings the region has, explains Steve
'The ease of access with top class infrastructure; excellent and interesting high quality attractions; stunning scenery; amazing customer care and a genuine warmth from everyone we met helped to make for a memorable event.'