Not that we’re mad on awards, we do recognise that some are more valuable than others. And anything that gets our city the recognition and inward cash it needs is fine by us. So it’s great to see that we’ve been voted Britain’s 4th best city in the Guardian and Observer’s 2012 Travel Awards – thanks, it says, to our ‘vibrant nightlife and arts scene’.
That we’re beaten by established tourist-circuit cities of Edinburgh, Bath and York means Liverpool is the leading core city, and the only ‘modern’ city (ie, where tourism isn’t largely based on pre-industrial heritage or, in the case of Edinburgh, its status as capital).
It’s essential that our tourism infrastructure is developed, and protected. Tourists mean cash. Cash means not only bumper hotel occupancy, but improved chances for everything: from The Echo Arena, to MelloMello to survive.
Liverpool knows how to welcome people, this much is obvious. What we need to do now is ensure our tourist offer is as diverse and distinctive as our city. That we work a little harder at our welcome, and we grasp the nettle: people come here to have a good time. Not to sleep. We don’t have the crescents of Bath, the hushed quadrangles of Cambridge or the Royal Mile of Edinburgh. We have Ropewalks, and Albert Dock, and Liverpool ONE and amazing culture houses.
Together, our offering of culture, music, heritage and sport is set to grow our visitor economy from its current value of £2.8 billion visitor spend per annum by 50% to £4.2 billion by 2020. If we get it right.
New posh hotels are one way – but we need to attract younger, more urban explorers, who’ll invest in bars, gigs, independent traders and smaller hotels too. Just like Berlin, Reykjavik and Sao Paulo have, successfully.
Cultural tourism, and city breaks to culturally alive destinations, is set to be the tourist success story over the next ten years. It’s a shame we’ve lost Ryanair routes to and from John Lennon Airport – but, even while Manchester still claims larger visitor numbers, awards like this (and Conde Nast’s last year) paint a different picture: Liverpool is a city that people come to visit, other places are mere transport hubs people pass through en route to somewhere else.
We impose Cumulative Impacts and rates rises at our peril…