Birmingham welcomed the highest number of visitors on record in 2016, with tourist numbers reaching 39 million, and tourism revenue hitting an all-time high of £6.5 billion. The number of full-time jobs supported by the sector now stands at 70,365.
The figures have been released today (05/03) by Marketing Birmingham’s research arm the Regional Observatory and tourism research body Global Tourism Solutions (GTS).
Significantly, visitor numbers represent a 2.5% increase on the figures achieved for 2015 – a landmark year for Birmingham, which saw over £1billion worth of investment in the city centre alone. The region has attracted increasing numbers of tourists from key target markets including India, the US and the Netherlands. Visitors from China – another priority market for the city – generated the highest amount of expenditure per head.
Cllr John Clancy, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Birmingham’s record visitor figures are ample proof of the growing appeal of its vibrant arts and culture scene, superb restaurants and unbeatable retail offer. More than ever before, the public and private sectors are pulling together to attract investment into Birmingham, with the aim of diversifying and building on the region’s existing compelling offer.
The city continues to attract visitors from across the globe, and this in turn is boosting both the Birmingham and regional economy, creating employment opportunities for local people.”
Events contributing to Birmingham’s upsurge in tourists and visitor spend last year, included: Edgbaston Stadium’s cricket fixtures (£17.7m); the Birmingham and Solihull Jazz and Blues Festival (£6.2m) and the Conservative Party Conference (£18.4m). Key exhibitions included the BBC Good Food Show and Grand Designs Live – both at the NEC, and the British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) congress at the ICC. 2016 also marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s legacy, with tribute shows hosted by Birmingham’s Repertory and Hippodrome Theatres and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO).
Neil Rami, Chief Executive of Marketing Birmingham, added: “Both domestic and international tourism peaked at a record high in 2016. The strength of Birmingham’s visitor economy is not only boosting the city’s reputation as a leisure destination across the globe, it is also attracting further investment into the city’s transport routes and infrastructure.
The combination of both a flourishing leisure offer and burgeoning physical landscape, has confirmed Birmingham as the number one ranking English city outside the capital for its quality of life.”
The figures, released by Marketing Birmingham’s Regional Observatory, also demonstrated 2016 to be the most successful year in history for Birmingham’s hotels, with occupancy rates for 2016 peaking at 99% capacity and averaging at 75%.
The local market is currently experiencing significant development activity, with 15 hotels at various stages of planning or construction, including a new Holiday Inn Express set to open this month and the Grand Hotel (2018). The largest hotel to open in the city in 2016 was Park Regis Birmingham, with 253 rooms and two new restaurants.
Ian Dick, General Manager at Novotel Birmingham Centre, added: “We’re seeing really high demand from visitors coming to Birmingham for many different purposes. The hotel is right next to the bars of Broad Street and just a few minutes’ walk away from the Barclaycard Arena for fans going to sports and entertainment events. The hotel also receives a lot of business travellers who want to stay somewhere close to New Street Station and have access to meeting and event spaces, as well as relaxation facilities like a gym and sauna.
We’re seeing visitors from all over the world – the city is really promoting itself internationally and often tourists from overseas look for an international brand like Novotel.”
A number of sales missions took place during 2016 to promote Birmingham and the surrounding region’s leisure and business tourism offer. City representatives attended international events including IMEX America and Destination Britain China, in partnership with tourism body VisitBritain. Other events included Visit Britain’s flagship trade event in Liverpool, Explore GB; and the meeting and conference industry exhibition, The Meetings Show at London’s Olympia.