Spotlight on Lancashire’s Heritage City
The new Lancashire Visitor Economy Strategy 2015 -2020, developed by Marketing Lancashire and following considerable consultation with stakeholders, identifies the city of Lancaster as one of the best opportunities for visitor economy growth in the county.
The city’s heritage assets, cultural offering and geographical location provide the essential ingredients for Lancaster to become a key short break destination in England. However, there is common agreement that the city’s full tourism potential has yet to be realised. To successfully attract more visitors and increase visitor spend, Marketing Lancashire, the designated Destination Management Organisation for the county, is working in partnership with Lancaster City Council, to lead on the production of a Destination Development Plan for the city – this will be an action oriented plan that is, owned and delivered by a range of stakeholders within Lancaster.
The plan will identify the city’s priorities from a visitor-centric approach to developing its facilities, services and products, to support the city towards realising its tourism potential. A leadership group, including representatives from the visitor economy, retail, culture, heritage, education, transport, community and the local authority will steer the process. An initial meeting has been held and a business survey will be delivered over the next few weeks, followed by a wider stakeholder consultation event.
The most recent visitor figures for Lancaster reveal that the city receives over 7 million visitors per year, equating to 11% of all tourism visits to Lancashire; contributing over £415 million to the local economy and supporting 5,878 full time jobs.
Lancaster is already reaching out to new markets nationally and internationally thanks to a number of marketing initiatives being worked on by Marketing Lancashire, in association with Visit England and Visit Britain.
Lancaster Castle is amongst a handful of northern attractions currently featured in marketing activity on the London Underground, with audiences across the South East reading and hearing more about Lancaster thanks to the £1million multi-channel campaign to support destinations hit by the recent flooding. The campaign, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in January, is spreading the positive message that the county where life feels good, is open for business and keen to welcome visitors; with Lancashire offering great heritage and cultural attractions, stunning coast and countryside, unparalleled hospitality and quality short breaks.
This new and unexpected boost to marketing activity is driving visitors to visitlancashire.com and page views of Lancaster and its district web pages have increased by 93% over the last 3 months (compared with same period 2014/15) Annual page views for the Lancaster area have just exceeded 1.2 million, demonstrating the public’s growing interest in this small city with a big story.
In 2015, with the help of Marketing Lancashire, Lancaster joined the Heritage Cities Consortium, a partnership of 11 cities including Bath, Oxford, York, which are all now benefitting from the £2m GREAT UK Challenge Fund (UKCF), part of the Government’s GREAT Britain Campaign.
Lancaster, along with its 10 partners, is now being promoted to potential visitors in France thanks to new French language website www.heritagecities.com/fr; part of the latest English Heritage Cities campaign currently utilising a range of digital channels including the reach of visitlondon.com to drive short breaks into the English regions. As well as the new website the campaign will include YouTube clips, online banner advertising and a VIP competition offering a two night break, free entry to attractions and guided tours in the winner’s destination of choice.
Ruth Connor Chief Executive of Marketing Lancashire, and English Heritage Cities board member said
“Lancaster is without doubt punching under its weight as a visitor destination which is why Marketing Lancashire, Lancaster Council and a wide range of private sector partners are working together to raise the city’s profile.
“Joining the English Heritage Cities consortium puts Lancaster on the same visitor map as Bath or York and to match these in terms of visitor numbers and awareness, businesses across Lancaster will need to become more visitor focused and more aware of the visitor experience expected of a leading tourism destination.
“Marketing Lancashire is currently promoting Lancaster to national and worldwide audiences by exploiting marketing opportunities in the UK and in key overseas markets; as well as introducing new journalists and media to the city with the aim of boosting the profile of this attractive historic and cultural city. These activities and the combined efforts of partners and colleagues across Lancaster will help transform the city into a must-visit short break destination; securing more jobs and sustained economic growth for Lancaster and district.”
Marketing Lancashire has also been working with other northern destination management organisations to attract international visitors to the North, through the £10million Northern Tourism Growth Fund (NTGF). This has seen Lancaster promoted in New York, Miami, Munich and Australia, as well as to Visit Britain PR representatives in 17 world destinations, through Visit Britain’s recent Vibe event. Visits to Lancashire by travel buyers, agents and journalists have already taken place with more planned over the coming weeks, with Lancaster featuring on a wide range of itineraries.
On Wednesday 23 March Lancaster VIC will represent Lancashire in the NTGF North of England Take Over of London City Information Centre, to highlight the opportunities for visitors that are within easy reach of the capital. The North of England Take Over will attract media attention as well as offer visitors the chance to hear about attractions and events taking place across the North. The day will also help the London City information staff increase their product knowledge of visitor attractions beyond London. Virgin trains direct train from London to Lancaster, in around 2.5 hours, makes Lancaster a genuine second-centre break for international visitors keen to explore the culture and heritage of Northern England.
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