West Midlands unveils £1 billion strategy to grow visitor economy

UK’s first regional Tourism Strategy follows the Government’s Tourism Sector Deal.

A Regional Tourism Strategy to grow the West Midlands’ visitor economy by more than £1 billion is launched today. It also aims to create a further 19,000 jobs for the region.

The West Midlands Regional Tourism Strategy highlights how work to support the sector can help to grow its economic value from £12.6 billion in 2018 to £13.7 billion during the next decade, a 9% increase. This growth will be achieved by attracting more domestic and international visitors, generating an estimated rise in spend of £1.1 billion across the region.

The Strategy also aims to support the creation of 19,000 new jobs, ranging from entry-level to managerial positions.

Showcasing world-renowned events such as Coventry City of Culture 2021 and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 to a wider audience are central to the Regional Tourism Strategy. It was developed by the West Midlands Growth Company – which aims to attract visitors, investment and events to the region – with local and national partners that represent the sector.

Neil Rami, Chief Executive of the WMGC, said: “The visitor economy is critically important to the wider success of the West Midlands. Not only does this vibrant industry generate economic growth and new jobs – it also gives us a sense of place that we can be proud of, which other people want to experience or invest in.

“The new Regional Tourism Strategy provides a comprehensive, detailed framework that will help us to realise this industry’s potential. With major cultural and sporting events on the horizon, this is the perfect time to capitalise on the opportunities they will bring, and help the West Midlands to make its mark globally.”

The Regional Tourism Strategy comprises both leisure and business tourism, aiming to attract more major conferences and events as well as holidaymakers. It is the first of its kind to be launched by a UK region since the Government announced its Tourism Sector Deal in July 2019.

Attracting more international visitors to the West Midlands is a key element of the Regional Tourism Strategy. It has identified a number of key markets to target, which also align with the region’s inward investment activity: North America, Germany, China, and India.

Sally Balcombe, CEO of VisitBritain/VisitEngland, said: “The West Midlands offers visitors a unique experience – from its diverse cultural offer and rich heritage, to the international conferences and events it hosts every year. Its new Regional Tourism Strategy aligns with our ambition to develop the experiences our visitors can enjoy in the UK, and entice more people to come here.

“It is clear that organisations across the tourism sector in the West Midlands have really grasped the opportunity to work together, for the benefit of the whole region.”

The Regional Tourism Strategy outlines a range of objectives that will help to grow the West Midlands’ visitor economy. They include:

· The creation of a regional tourism board, supported by the WMGC

· Continuing to raise awareness of the region to UK and international audiences though sales, marketing and communications activity

. Setting up a Regional Bidding Partnership Unit to help local organisations join forces when bidding to host major events and conferences

· Hosting a Regional Tourism Awards to celebrate and promote success stories from the West Midlands. The inaugural Awards are open for entries, with the winners then showcased nationally by being automatically shortlisted for VisitEngland’s National Awards for Excellence

· A joint regional bid for one of the Government’s new Tourism Zones, which aim to drive visitor numbers across the country, extend the season and tackle local barriers to tourism growth

Fiona Allan, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Birmingham Hippodrome, and a board member of the WMGC, commented: “The development of the Regional Tourism Strategy has relied on the public and private sectors collaborating closely, and it is great to see that activity is already underway to deliver its objectives. I look forward to working with partners in the tourism industry to achieve our aspirations for this thriving sector, boost its economic performance and create more local jobs.”

The launch of the Regional Tourism Strategy follows a year of success for the West Midlands. The region attracted a record 131 million visitors in 2018, a 2.6% increase on the previous year. Visitor spend rose by 6.7% to reach £12.6 billion. Meanwhile, hotel monthly average occupancy rates reached an all-time high of 74.8%.