Conference heralds a new era for Lancashire Tourism
Marketing Lancashire has held the first Partners’ Tourism Conference, since announcing that Lancashire has been named a Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP) by national tourism agency Visit England.
Lancashire LVEP partners Marketing Lancashire and VisitBlackpool, who submitted the LVEP application on behalf of Lancashire, will now work within a national portfolio of strategic and high-performing LVEPs to transform England’s visitor economy landscape. With the support of all 14 Lancashire districts, the Lancashire LVEP will play a greater role in national and local policy, strategy, decision-making and will lead on bids for national funding opportunities to benefit the county.
The Partners’ Tourism Conference, held at Ribby Hall on Tuesday 16 January, began with speeches from Lancashire County Councillor Peter Buckley and Andy Walker, Head of Business Growth and Innovation at Lancashire County Council, who outlined the current Devolution plan for Lancashire, the important role of the visitor economy and the significance of the new LVEP status.
Andy Walker said “We understand the importance of the tourism sector. The devolution deal incorporates this, with themes including how we support tourism businesses and where we invest. For example, to ensure that the transport function can assist the tourism sector so that people can get to attractions. It is about new jobs, new sectors, new opportunities, and giving young people routes into careers in tourism, hospitality and leisure. It’s about boosting business across the region.”
Vikki Harris, Marketing and Partnership Director of Marketing Lancashire gave a presentation on the benefits of being an LVEP; the national and international opportunities to market Lancashire, more access to research and insights, as well as training and toolkits that will help businesses become more sustainable and accessible.
Vikki Harris said “Securing LVEP status is fantastic news for Lancashire. Marketing Lancashire and VisitBlackpool are trailblazers for the new structure, helping shape and define what an LVEP is and we’re looking forward to making the most of the many opportunities that being an LVEP unlocks.
“We are right at the start of the LVEP journey and tourism businesses across Lancashire will be invited to participate in helping to shape activities in key areas that have been outlined in the county’s Tourism Growth Strategy.
“Our vision is to grow a visitor economy in Lancashire that provides exceptional and distinctive attractions and experiences that transform people’s perceptions of Lancashire.”
Vikki went on to highlight major developments such as Eden North in Morecambe, Showtown in Blackpool, the re-imagined Harris in Preston, town deals and market developments across the county, that will all help reach the target of growing the Lancashire visitor economy to pre-Covid levels by 2027.
Recent STEAM* figures, issued by Marketing Lancashire, show the county is recovering well from the impact of the Covid pandemic, with visitor numbers at 94% and economic impact at 95% of pre-Covid levels. (full report available here)
Other guest speakers, introduced by BBC Radio Lancashire’s Mike Stevens included: Nick Gerrard, Growth and Prosperity Programme Director of Blackpool Council; Liz Moss, Chief Executive of the new museum of entertainment Showtown, opening in Blackpool in March; Alex Young from fast growing Stanley Villa Farm; Rick Parkinson from Blackpool and the Fylde College; Celia Gaze from The Wellbeing Farm and Ian Steele of Atkinson’s Coffee who discussed the importance of sustainability.
Nick Gerrard from Blackpool Council said “We are entering a time of resurrection for Blackpool. There is a £2billion Growth and Prosperity programme being delivered in Blackpool, one of the three main strategic objectives of which is to break the cyclical nature of tourism and extend the season, as depending on the summer months provides many challenges. We want to move to a year round tourism economy and the type of projects that are happening now are working well towards this, including the extension of the Illuminations season until January, the Winter Gardens Conference and Exhibition Centre extension and the recent opening of the reinvigorated Abingdon Street Market to provide a very popular food and drink venue and market.
“Opening shortly after Showtown will be the new Backlot Cinema and Diner with one of the largest IMAX screens in the country. Other major investments include a brand new 144-bed Holiday Inn opening in spring, a recently opened Premier Inn hotel, and the Hampton by Hilton Blackpool which only opened in 2019 and has already been extended, to accommodate more people to the town.”
Blackpool’s latest STEAM data shows the resort attracting more than 20 million visitors in 2022, 12% higher than the pre-pandemic year of 2019
Over 100 people from tourism and leisure businesses joined Marketing Lancashire for the half-day conference, with attendees also offered a Taste Lancashire experience with some of Lancashire’s finest food and drink producers providing delicious samples. These included: Brindle Distillery Cuckoo Gin (Brindle), Farm Yard Brew Company (Lancaster), Good Intent Gifts (Leyland), Lucela’s premium spirits (Bispham), Mrs Dowson’s (Blackburn), Pudalicious (Poulton-Le-Fylde), The Bee Centre (Brindle) and Three Wheeled Gin (Morecambe).
*STEAM is a tourism economic impact modelling process; an annual volume and value study used by organisations like Marketing Lancashire, to help monitor growth and to show the economic impact of tourism.