Early visitors enjoying a bacon butty at the Group Leisure %26 Travel Show 2017.

Britain’s biggest annual event for the group travel and coach tourism market got off to a flying start this morning at the NEC, Birmingham.

The Group Leisure & Travel Show, in Hall 18 of the NEC, is home today for over 200 exhibitors from the group travel industry and coach tourism sector, and exhibitors are already busy networking with GTOs and coach operators.

Over the past two decades the GLTS, now in its 21st year, has become the highlight event for group travel organisers and coach operators seeking advice and inspiration on everything from UK day trips, theatre breaks, weekend getaways or specialist holidays, to cruises and fantastic long-haul visits across the world. 

The list of more than 200 exhibitors includes many of the biggest names in national and international group travel, from historic properties, gardens and attractions, to cruise lines, rail operators, coach operators, theatre productions, ticketing agencies, tour companies, tourist boards and accommodation providers.

There are a massive range of highlights to be enjoyed, including a range of free competitions being run by exhibitors including exciting prizes such as free holidays and short breaks, luxury hampers of wine, delicious Cornish tea and various Tiptree items, as well as many other giveaways.

A fabulous St Bernard dog called Hugo will welcome you to the Switzerland Travel Centre stand and a full life size Smurf character is a ‘selfie’ must on the Visit Brussels stand. And be aware – Elvis is in the building!

Travel expert Simon Calder out at and about at the GLTS, prior to his Seminar Theatre presentation.

The Seminar Theatre, which is free to enter, offers celebrity speakers close up and has already seen news broadcaster Nicholas Owen take to the stage today. Owen’s presentation, titled Great Rail Journeys for Groups, provoked a very positive reaction from the audience who went away with a great range of ideas.

Roy Fidoe, a visitor, said: "I thought Nicholas Owen was excellent. He talks with such enthusiasm and has great knowledge, you can tell it's something he really likes. I've actually been on the Rocky Mountaineer, someting Nicholas spoke about, and as a speaker he was very good."

Senior travel editor of The Independent and TV pundit Simon Calder, has just started his presentation to a packed theatre. Britain’s most famous go to travel expert is providing top travel tips for group travel organisers and answering their questions.

This afternoon will see two more celebrity speakers take to the stage: BBC presenter and history expert Dan Cruickshank, and Chris Beardshaw, a 2017 award-winner at the Chelsea Flower Show and presenter of the BBC Series The Beech Garden.

Feedback from visiting group travel organisers has been very positive. Kathleen Oakley of Derek's Tours, said: "The show is the highlight of my year - it honestly is. It's the best show for trade for groups. It's a brilliant place, you pick up ideas, it's interesting - it is a must for group organisers! This must be the tenth year I've come."

The show is open today, Thursday 12th October, until 4.00pm. Visitors can claim free entry to the show by registering at the NEC hall 18 upon arrival.

For more information visit www.grouptravelshow.com.