State of the sector: tourism is invaluable sector to Greater Manchester economy says Marketing Manchester boss

£7.9 billion tourism sector worth more than other key sectors

£1 million Discover England fund announced to increase volume of visitors to the north of England through Manchester Airport

Greater Manchester’s lead for Internationalisation outlines ambitions to be world-leading tourist destination

Greater Manchester’s tourism sector is worth more than key sectors such as advanced manufacturing, life sciences and creative, digital and tech according to Marketing Manchester’s managing director Sheona Southern.

The assertion was made today at the second annual Greater Manchester Tourism Conference at the Pavilion at Emirates Old Trafford where tourism and hospitality professionals from the region gathered to hear about the state of the sector and its future direction.

Greater Manchester’s tourism sector is worth £7.9 billion and supports 94,000 jobs. The region attracts 119 million visitors per year; 11 million that stay and 108 million day visitors.

Elaborating on the assertion, Sheona said: “Greater Manchester’s tourism sector is one of extraordinary success which is often overlooked and taken for granted when people talk positively about how the city is moving forward and developing. The sector grew and supported economic recovery in Greater Manchester after the 2008 recession and it is composed predominantly of SMEs that make the region such an interesting and diverse place to visit, invest, meet and study.

“Despite challenges this year, the sector has bounced back with some great successes. Thanks to Manchester Airport’s growth and continued success over the past five years, international visitors reached 1.4 million in 2016 which already exceeds the target set in the 2020 Tourism Strategy. And at a wider regional level there has also been a 7% increase in the number of international visitors across the North West in the last year.

“Business tourism, specifically the conference and events sub-sector, is now worth £810 million and supports 21,900 job. So far this year Marketing Manchester and its partners have won 20 conferences which will bring 11,635 delegates and £21.7m to the region over the coming years. The value of these visitors, not just in monetary terms but also in terms of profile and investment opportunities, cannot be overestimated.”

“Since the Arena attack in May it has, of course, been a difficult period for the sector, but the tourism community showed their true Mancunian grit and weathered the incident much better than EU comparators.

Manchester’s average hotel occupancy rate for the first half of 2017 was exceeding last year’s record growth and performing ahead of all other northern destinations as well as the UK average. Post-attack occupancy rates and values struggled, however the latest August figures show signs of recovery and is tracking in-line with 2016 even with increased hotel supply compared to twelve months ago, meaning that demand is actually higher than last year.

“That’s real resilience and demonstrates just how much potential there is, but performing at last year’s level isn’t enough as we aim to reach 5% growth year-on-year and consider the impact of a 25% increase in hotel room stock by 2020. With the right funding and investment from government and private sector partnerships such growth can be achieved this year.”

Another hot topic of conversation at the Greater Manchester Tourism Conference was the news that Marketing Manchester has been awarded a £1 million from the Discover England Fund to increase the volume of visitors coming through Manchester Airport by creating itineraries that showcase the city and excursions that open up the north of England.

Working with destinations, travel trade and the tourism industry and targeting the US market, Marketing Manchester will lead a partnership to maximise the potential of the north of England as an international destination and gateway to the North.

VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe, said: “The calibre of submissions reflects the innovation in product development thriving across the country’s tourism landscape.  The successful projects will boost international and domestic visitor growth creating a step-change in the industry and spreading the economic benefits of tourism across England. It’s great to see the Manchester take centre stage in a project that will open up the North of England.”

The three-year Discover England Fund, which runs from 2016-19, aims to improve England’s competitive tourism offer by building world-class, bookable tourism products and getting them to the right international customers at the right time, benefiting the domestic market and making it easier to explore the country.

The annual UK growth forecast for tourism is expected to be 3.8% every year up to 2025 whilst Greater Manchester is forecast to grow by 5% per annum.

If Greater Manchester maintains a 5% level of growth the tourism sector will exceed its 2020 target value of £8.8 billion by the end of 2019, one year ahead of schedule. The overall ambition for Greater Manchester, as stated in the Internationalisation Strategy, is for Manchester to be a top 20 global city by 2035.

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council and lead for internationalisation, said: “Manchester has established itself as a premier league European city with a diversified economy and a robust tourism sector. We have been ranked a top 10 global city for FDI Strategy by fDi Global Cities of the Future, we have featured in Lonely Planet’s ‘best in travel’ and we have made it into the Top 20 hotel attractiveness Index 2017 by Colliers.

“The city’s profile has never been stronger, with significant developments in all key sectors, workforce skills, and quality of life to name a few. Our infrastructure is seeing remarkable development with Metrolink continuing its expansion across the region and Manchester Airport, which connects Manchester to over 200 destinations worldwide, is continuing to grow passenger numbers.

“Greater Manchester is finding itself at the centre of some seismic shifts in the political landscape to which it must respond. With Brexit likely to significantly change the way the UK deals with the rest of the world it’s vital that we make clear our continuing international ambitions and tourism needs to be at the forefront of those conversations.

“As we build on our success, we’ll look to strengthen not just Greater Manchester, but the entire north of England region. We must work with our partners across the north to ensure that we’re able to achieve our shared objectives and build a stronger, more inclusive United Kingdom.”

Around 180 delegates attended the sold-out Greater Manchester Tourism Conference 2017 including high-level decision makers, general managers and CEOs from across the north of England.

The Greater Manchester Tourism Conference 2017 was sponsored by Emirates Old Trafford, Quaytickets, Fisher AV and Expedia.