Having launched at Buckingham Palace and departed from Birmingham Airport last October, the Baton is now on an epic journey visiting 72 Commonwealth nations and territories in 294 days ahead of the Games’ opening ceremony in July.
As the 16th official Queen’s Baton Relay, this is not the first time the Queen’s Baton has visited India, but it is the first time it has brought with it the spirit of the West Midlands – the host region of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
A virtual showcase event will be hosted to celebrate the arrival of the Queen’s Baton Relay to India, presenting a unique opportunity for the country to meet the West Midlands.
Located in the heart of Britain, the West Midlands is a region bustling with vibrant cities, beautiful countryside, world-class tourism venues and engaging attractions. Home to Coventry, the UK City of Culture 2021, and the upcoming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the region is a world-class tourism destination.
Organised by the West Midlands’ Business and Tourism Programme, the virtual showcase event, which took place on 12 January shined a spotlight on the innovation and investment into arts, tourism and culture in the region.
Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to India, will open the event, which will feature speeches and performances by a number of West Midlands representatives, including pianist Rekesh Chauhan, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Director of West Midlands Women's Cricket Ltd and Ex-England cricketer Laura MacLeod.
The Baton, which was specially created by designers and technologists from the West Midlands, will journey to Delhi, Ahemedabad, Bangalore and Bhubaneswar where locals from across the business, tourism and cultural landscapes will hear why the West Midlands is a leading destination for trade, investment and tourism.
Over 200,000 Indian origin peoples live and work in the West Midlands, and Indian visitors are more likely to spend time in the West Midlands than other international visitors. The region ranks third among English regions for visits from India (an average of 47,000 in 2017-19) and nights spent (1.2 million), and fourth for visitor spend generating £40m, presenting a unique opportunity for the destinations to work together.
The region will leverage the profile generated by the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games to boost the global reputation of Birmingham, the West Midlands, and the UK, as a leading destination for tourism.
A schedule of dedicated domestic and international campaigns aim to increase visitors to the region by delivering a diverse and engaging creative to audiences with a high propensity to travel, whilst using the Games as an opportunity to put the region’s unique cultural offering on show to the Commonwealth, targeting consumers and the travel trade.
In March, the Birmingham 2022 Festival will launch, featuring hundreds of creative commissions across the region. The six-month long celebration will celebrate creativity in the West Midlands and benefit hundreds of artists, and thousands of participants, communities and audiences.
The region’s tourism agency has worked with over 50 businesses to develop new product for the travel trade and is supporting them to place this with tour operators and DMCs. A training programme for agents and OTAs is under development and the travel trade lead, Samantha Bailey is on hand to give dedicated advice to share the go-to places across the West Midlands’ destinations with new itineraries and imagery.
Additionally, a digital visitor information network will deliver targeted visitor information to amplify perceptions of the West Midlands and its digital prowess, complemented by information kiosks across the region. A business readiness programme will train hospitality, transport and retail staff to become ambassadors and hosts.
Minister for Sport and Tourism, Nigel Huddleston said:
"This week we celebrate the rich ties between our two great nations as the Queen's Baton Relay travels through India. We are proud of the living bridge that unites our countries and the West Midlands - with its rich South Asian heritage - is a great example of that connection. As we look ahead to Birmingham 2022, we want to promote the best of the West Midlands to India as a fantastic place to live, visit, work and invest."
Sally Balcombe, Chief Executive of VisitBritain, said:
“As the Queen’s Baton tours India, this is a timely and valuable opportunity to remind Indian audiences about the outstanding experiences that the West Midlands and the UK have to offer.
“India and the UK have longstanding ties, with the West Midlands holding a unique relationship with its Indian counterparts thanks to centuries of shared history, culture, language and democratic links. The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games allows us to extend and deepen this special friendship further.
“We aim to showcase as much as we can during this leg of the baton’s journey to ensure that the West Midlands and UK remain front of mind with Indian tourists when international travel resumes safely.”
Andy Street, Mayor of West Midlands, added:
“India has always been a great friend of the West Midlands. The Queen’s Baton Relay offers our region a further opportunity to strengthen its excellent relationship with the country, with our melting pot of heritage and culture having already created a home from home for many Indian residents and visitors.
“Nothing unites people more than a major global sporting event. We encourage people to come and enjoy this summer's Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the West Midlands, as we highlight the richness and vibrancy of our tourism offer.
“From our winding waterways and energetic festivals to innovative architecture and mouth-watering food offer, we look forward to showing off our fantastic visitor attractions on an international stage.”
In the spirit of making connections across the globe, the Queen’s Baton Relay is also accompanied by a Commonwealth-wide relay of words and art: The Relaytionship.
The unique piece of ‘hyper hybrid art’ invites individuals from every corner of the Commonwealth to contribute their own unique words to the evolving piece of artwork.
Following the same journey as the Baton, the first iteration of the Relaytionship will be unveiled exclusively for the first time in India.
The artistic collaboration will absorb words and images from people in India, a country with a rich poetic legacy and influence, and continue its journey alongside the Queen’s Baton.
Indians are invited to contribute and continue the relay of words at www.makeitwm.com/relaytionship