Excursions gets ready to open its doors

Excursions gets ready to open its doors Excursions gets ready to open its doors
Around 250 attractions, destinations, tour operators and theatre agencies will exhibit at Excursions 2012, the one-day group travel show at Alexandra Palace, North London later this month.

Excursions  takes place on Saturday 28 January from 10.30am to 4pm. Many exhibitors will be taking a stand for the first time in 2012 and several will be offering overseas holidays including tours, cruises and hotels for larger parties. There will also be some exhibitors from mainland Europe.

Following the success of the visitor prize draw at the 2011 show, the initiative is being repeated for the 2012 exhibition. Everyone who pre-registers and attends Excursions 2012 will be automatically entered into a free draw to win one of the many exciting prizes offered by exhibitors, including a rare opportunity for the winner and four guests to enter the control cabin and pull the lever that raises London’s famous Tower Bridge, and a two night dinner, B&B break for two with Brook Hotels worth £470.

A large number of exhibitors are celebrating the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games with special events, while other exhibitors have venues on their doorstep.

The White Water Centre in Lee Valley Regional Park, Hertfordshire is to be the venue for the canoeing and kayaking events. Now open to visitors, thrill seekers can take up the challenge of rafting the rapids before the Olympians arrive. The Lee Valley Athletics Centre is also being used daily by top British athletes and team GB hopefuls since it’s just one of two high performance venues in the country to have an exact replica of the track to be used at the 2012 Games  – www.leevalleypark.org.uk – while the All England Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club will be hosting the tennis competition – www.aeltc.com.

Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site in south east London is one of the host boroughs for the London 2012 Games. Equestrian and modern pentathlon events will take place in Greenwich Park; basketball finals and artistic gymnastics will be staged at the North Greenwich Arena and shooting and archery will be held in the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich – www.visitgreenwich.org.uk. Ticket holders to the equestrian events will be able to travel to Greenwich by river with City Cruises – www.citycruises.com.

Visitors to Buckinghamshire – www.visitbuckinghamshire.org – can delve into the history of the birthplace of the Paralympics at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, after which one of the Games’ mascots has been named. They can also explore Dorney Lake, the rowing canoe venue for the 2012 Games, which is also on the edge of the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead – www.windsor.gov.uk. Information will also be on the Windsor stand about the guided tours offered at Dorney Lake by Rendez-Vous Blue Badge Tourist Guides – www.rendezvousguides.co.uk.

London’s Royal Opera House is collaborating with The Olympic Museum in Lausanne to stage a free exhibition telling the Olympic story through the endeavours of ancient and modern Olympians. Called The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games, it will run from 27 July to 12 August 2012 featuring unique artefacts, graphics, film and audio, and promises to be a highlight of the London 2012 Festival, the finale of the Cultural Olympiad – www.roh.org.uk.

Leeds Castle in Kent – www.leeds-castle.co.uk – has been named as one of the Olympic Torch relay sites and will be staging a large event in July 2012 when it passes through the estate. And Cadbury has been nominated as the official treat provider for London 2012 – www.cadburyworld.co.uk.

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum – www.ironbridge.org.uk – has commissioned international artist Kurt Hentschläger to create a new Cultural Olympiad digital artwork entitled CORE, which will be installed at the Enginuity design and technology centre from March until autumn 2012. Forming part of the London 2012 Festival, it will feature a sequence of windows in a weightless world populated by groups of humanoid figures.

And from June to September Salisbury Cathedral – www.visitwiltshire.co.uk – will be hosting an Olympic themed exhibition. Avenue of Champions will feature bronze and marble sculptures by Ben Dearnley depicting some of the UK’s past and current Olympic and Paralympic champions. The final sculpture will be finished on site at the Cathedral timed to coincide with the final week of the 2012 Games.

City and Village Tours – www.cityandvillagetours.com – are offering a dozen new itineraries for day trips for groups including a range of London 2012 Olympic guided tours.

Shakespeare’s Globe, London – www.shakespearesglobe.com – will be celebrating the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games with a multi-lingual Shakespeare project. For the first time ever in a single theatre season, all the plays of Shakespeare will be presented, each in a different language, each by a different company from around the world

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee will also be celebrated in 2012 marking 60 years on the throne. The Royal Collection – www.royalcollection.org.uk – has put together a programme of exhibitions showcasing some of its finest works of art to be displayed at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, plus an exhibition of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci which will tour five UK museums and galleries.

Historic Royal Palaces – www.hrp.org.uk – has planned a feast of activities, exhibitions and events to celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee, including a temporary exhibition at Kensington Palace from 24 May, exploring the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The Crown Jewels will be newly displayed from Easter at the Tower of London.

Stowe Gardens in Buckinghamshire have devised a trail related to royal visits to the gardens through the centuries  – www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stowegardens – while the summer bedding design at Waddesdon Manor will be on a jubilee theme – www.waddesdon.org.uk.

Several Excursions 2012 exhibitors will be celebrating a special anniversary in 2012.

Dickens World, sharing a stand with Medway, Kent – www.dickensworld.co.uk – will be marking the bicentenary of the author’s birth (7 February 1812) with a variety of events in the attraction’s Britannia Theatre including a show with the Corps of the Royal Engineers on the actual day and an evening birthday party on the 10th. Saturday 11 February sees Mr Fezziwig’s Ball with quadrilles, waltzes, polkas and popular dances from the period.

The West Somerset Steam Railway, which runs for 20 miles from Bishop’s Lydeard near Taunton to Minehead, will be marking its 150th anniversary in March 2012 – www.west-somersetrailway.co.uk – with a series of special events, while Oxford – www.visitoxfordshire.com – will be the celebrating the 150th anniversary since the first ‘Alice in Wonderland’ story was told. Charles Dodgson, Dean of Christ Church (who wrote under the pseudonym of Lewis Carroll) narrated the tale as he rowed his daughter Alice Liddell and her sisters on the river, making up a story to entertain them on the way. Oxford will be marking the anniversary with events over the weekend of 7 and 8 July 2012.

Group visitors to the National Motor Museum Beaulieu – www.beaulieu.co.uk – will be able to see a major new exhibition, Bond in Motion, which marks 50 years since the first James Bond movie, Dr No, was screened. Featuring 50 iconic vehicles from the films, it will be the largest collection of Bond vehicles ever displayed together. The Page & Moy travel group will also be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012 – www.grouptravelchoice.co.uk – their portfolio ranges from city breaks and single-centre holidays to touring adventures as well as holidays by rail, river cruises and motor racing breaks.

2012 sees the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (15 April 2012). Tourism Ireland will be promoting the new Titanic Centre in Belfast opening on the derelict site of the former dockyard where the tragic ship was built – www.discoverireland.com. Also exhibiting from Ireland are Whites Hotels who offer packages and tailor made itineraries – www.whiteshotels-ireland.com.

The Grade 1 Georgian Baroque manor which is home to Finchcocks Musical Museum at Goudhurst, Kent – www.finchcocks.co.uk – was acquired by pianist and collector Richard Burnett and his wife Katrina 40 years ago in 1972. It now houses some of the world’s most important collections of period keyboard instruments, many of which have been carefully restored and are in full concert condition.

Also celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2012, the Norman Allen Group – www.grouptravel.com – is offering a series of no-minimum numbers air tours including Malta, Madeira, Cyprus, the Algarve and Guernsey and Hurtigruten cruises.

Amongst the attractions and exhibitions opening in 2012 will be the new, boat-shaped Mary Rose Museum at Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard – www.historicdockyard.co.uk.

For the first time since she was raised from the seabed in 1982, the restored hull will sit alongside the collection of over 16,000 personal and military artefacts found on-board, when the museum opens in the autumn.

The Compton Verney art gallery in Warwickshire – www.comptonverney.org.uk – will be staging a series of new exhibitions during 2012 beginning with Gainsborough’s Landscapes (31 March – 10 June 2012). Pre-booked groups are being offered exclusive access to this display between 11 February and 28 March 2012 before it opens to the public on 31 March.  Opening at the same time will be Into the Light: French and British painting from Impressionism to the early 1920s (31 March – 10 June) followed by Flight and the Artistic Imagination, a breath-taking display of artists’ responses to flight and how it has inspired their work (30 June – 30 September). Compton Verney’s final exhibition for 2012 will be 100 Years of Contemporary Tapestry 20 October to 16 December 2012

A £9million project by the National Trust to restore the 18th century gardens at Stowe in Buckinghamshire and a derelict coaching inn, known as the New Inn, will be completed in 2012 with a formal opening planned for March – www.nationaltrust.org.uk/stowegardens.

The historic rooms will be dressed to evoke the atmosphere of a Georgian country coaching inn and, together with new build, will form an impressive visitor centre and entry point into the gardens.

English Heritage has restored the gardens and opened a new visitor centre, shop and café at Wrest Park in Bedfordshire – www.english-heritage.org.uk/wrestpark – one of Britain’s most important and beautiful historic landscape gardens; reinstated historic paths make the 90 acre grounds easy to reach for groups. Another garden-lover’s venue, Audley End House & Gardens, a stunning Jacobean stately home near Cambridge, now has live horses and their grooms in the previously closed stable block which also features an exhibition about the working life of the estate in Victorian Times – www.english-heritage.org.uk/audleyend.

Currently undertaking a refurbishment programme, London’s Wallace Collection – www.wallacecollection.org – will be re-opening its East Galleries in late March 2012. Their vision is to create sumptuously improved spaces to hang their world-renowned collect of Dutch paintings, return the rooms to the proportions of Sir Richard Wallace’s day and re-introduce natural light with which to view the works of art.

In the West Country Exeter’s Royal Albert Memorial Museum is reopening following a major restoration and expansion project – www.heartofdevon.com – while Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire has two new attractions – Gorilla Island and a Watering Hole where visitors can hand feed giraffes – www.visitwiltshire.co.uk.

Windsor and the Royal Borough has produced a new online Travel Trade Guide for groups highlighting the major attractions in the Windsor, Eton, Maidenhead and Ascot area including Windsor Castle, Royal Windsor and Ascot Racecourses, the Savill Garden, boat trips and bus tours, plus hidden gems such as Blue Badge walking and cycling tours, horse-drawn carriage rides, Dorney Court and the Stanley Spencer Gallery, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012. The guide is available as an online brochure or can be downloaded from the groups section of – www.windsor.gov.uk.

Exhibiting for the second year, Best Western Ufford Park Hotel, Golf & Spa, Suffolk – www.uffordpark.co.uk – has upgraded some areas of the hotel and won a Silver Green Tourism award, while Warner Leisure Hotels have a new shorts breaks and bowls programme for 2012 – www.warnergroups.co.uk.

Seven Wonders of the Weald stand sharer, Kent & East Sussex Railway has teamed with the internationally renowned rocking horse builders, Stevenson Brothers, to offer a new tour for 2012 called the Reins and Trains experience including a visit to the rocking horse workshops and a steam train ride with lunch – www.kesr.org.uk. Also sharing with Seven Wonders of the Weald, Chiddingstone Castle has opened a new Victorian Servant’s bedroom for group tours – www.chiddingstonecastle.org.uk.

Bowen Group Travel - www.bowengrouptravel.com - is expanding its programme of tours and venues to include a worldwide selection for 2012/13, while Daish’s Travel are continuing to offer groups of 20 plus prices five days away for just £99 per person including return coach travel, four nights’ half-board and live entertainment staying in one of their four UK seaside resort hotels – www.daishs.com.

Among the many first time exhibitors is Brightwater Holidays – www.brightwaterholidays.com – the UK’s leading gardens and special interest tour operator, and Collette Worldwide Holidays – www.colletteworldwide.com – which offers escorted tours in all seven continents.

Also taking a stand for the first time are Akkeron Hotels – www.akkeronhotels.com – and Park Inn – www.parkinn.co.uk – which has 25 hotels in great locations from Scotland’s far north to the south east coast including city centres and quiet countryside settings.

Other new exhibitors include Dunwood Travel – www.dunwoodtravel.co.uk; Dorset’s Blue Line Cruises – www.bluelinecruises.co.uk; the very popular Disney on Ice production by DB Promotions – www.dbpromotions.co.uk; Hadrian’s Wall Heritage – www.hadrians-wall.org; and the Secret Gardens of Sandwich, Kent – www.the-secretgardens.co.uk.