ETOA, the European Tourism Association, and UKinbound will jointly host Britain and Ireland Marketplace (BIM) online in January.

The 13th instalment of the event, which brings together British and Irish suppliers with product buyers, is scheduled for January 26.

Last year’s event led to 4,000 appointments.

ETOA and UKinbound said they are concentrating all their UK commercial networking on the digital event, which will offer delegates – hotels, attractions, services providers – with product to sell to domestic, short-haul, long haul, online, wholesale or B2C buyers from across the world.

Tom Jenkins, chief executive of ETOA, noted a “near total disappearance of incoming visitors” in 2020, and that many members have reported falls in turnover of 90%. He said incoming tourism was due to deliver £30 billion of export sales for the UK in 2020, and roughly £6 billion to Ireland, “roughly thirty times the total earned by the fishing industry”. “Its disappearance has not just affected our members, but it has left a gaping hole in the service economies of both countries,” said Jenkins.

He added: “The re-establishment of tourism is of critical importance to whole economy. The good news is that there remains robust demand in all origin markets.  All the evidence we have points to visitors having postponed their trips until the moment they feel it is safe to travel. Amongst our members we have reports of 50% of bookings cancelled in 2020 already rescheduled for 2021. There is also the prospect of a “near normal” season in 2022, for which plans have to be laid now.

“There is so much to discuss. With pent-up demand and unprecedented availability this will be an exceptional opportunity to do business. For consumers they have the prospect of uniquely uncrowded attractions and comparatively low costs. If there will never be a better time to come the UK and Ireland, then there will never be a better time to do business. There is a real hunger for product.

“After the worst year for tourism in a lifetime, we are looking forward to the most productive Britain and Ireland Workshop yet. If a tourism product can be sold, the companies will be there to sell it.”

Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, added: “Whilst the UK government continues to exclude tour operators and destination management companies from the support packages offered to other parts of leisure and hospitality, it will be up to the industry to help itself. BIM is an ideal way for tourism businesses to get ready for when travel returns and maximise the evident demand for 2021 and 2022.

“We know how many of our members have benefited from the solid business that BIM has generated in previous years, and 2021 will be a huge opportunity for businesses to benefit from, and to play their part in, the UK’s export recovery.”

Tourism Ireland and Visit Scotland are sponsoring the event. Click here to register.