Out-going tourism chief says the outlook for Cheshire’s tourism is bright if we “Think big, think different’

Tourism in Cheshire is booming and according to the latest figures is now worth over £3.5 billion* and employs over 36,000 people. High quality accommodation, exciting new attractions and attention-grabbing events account for much of this success. These figures follow continuous upward growth which has seen Cheshire’s tourist trade soar by more than 75% since 2010.

Katrina Michel, out-going CEO of Marketing Cheshire, who signs off in November after overseeing five years of continuous growth, said: “The figures show that visitors love visiting Cheshire and what’s more we know that more visitors are keen to come – a recent 2018 YouGov poll identifies Chester as one of the top four places people most want to visit. So the county is in a good shape to consolidate its position as a top UK destination, providing it continues to innovate and at a local level ‘Think Big, Think Different’.

“Tourism is changing fast. External factors like the weak exchange rate have led to strong UK demand for short breaks. Cheshire has risen to the challenge with a mix of events and accommodation that suits all ages, pockets and weathers. But challenging times lie ahead and there is no room for complacency. At a national level we not only need to use our creativity and flair to improve our products – which means on-going financial investment – but there needs to be even closer county-wide liaison between all players in the tourist mix. One of the key goals is to make people stay longer and spend more by turning a one night stay into two. This means looking closely at what people want, in particular developing more evening events and activities that will make them want to stay.”

How the figures break down

Thanks to 35 million visitors in 2017, for the first time, the visitor economy in the Cheshire West & Chester Council area exceeded £2 billion. This is a growth rate of 4.4%, up 80% since 2010. These impressive figures are thanks tostrong performances by Chester Zoo, Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet, Tattenhall’s Ice Cream Farm but also by events such as Pokémon Go, which saw around 16,000 people come to Chester – the majority of whom were under 35 and had not visited the city before. The opening of Chester’s Storyhouse and the Ark exhibition at Chester Cathedral were also top draws, helping to drive the city’s hotel occupancy figures to new heights. With a number of new hotels in the pipeline, including some in the affordable sector, it is hoped that more visitors will opt to stay overnight and for longer.

Cheshire East Council’s strategic focus has been on generating more overnight stays and it has made great strides in achieving this objective. There has been a 6.3% increase in visitors staying overnight. This has been driven by the construction of high quality accommodation that meets the needs of different types of tourists – from those seeking affordable family accommodation to visitors wanting boutique and world-class hotel and country house accommodation. Tourism has also been driven by the continued success of festivals such as Jodrell Bank’s spectacular Bluedot Festival and activity around High Speed 2 rail line. In 2017, Cheshire East Council’s tourism growth rate was 3.3%, up by nearly 70% since 2010.

Clive Sykes, Chairman, Marketing Cheshire, said: “Cheshire has a glittering array of tourist attractions and accommodation but these successful figures are also down to the hard work and creative input of dynamic individuals and teams throughout Cheshire. Our outgoing Chief Executive, Katrina Michel is one of these people. For five years she has used her outstanding marketing talents*, energy and creativity to promote Cheshire and for this we are very grateful.”