Events and business tourism in general continue to be central to the success of the city region visitor economy, Marketing Manchester chief executive Sheona Southern told the Greater Manchester Tourism Conference.
Southern said: “Business tourism, specifically the conference and events sub-sector, is now worth £810m and supports 21,900 jobs. 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.”
Southern also announced that Marketing Manchester has been awarded £1m from the Discover England Fund.
The three-year £40m 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, making it easier to explore the country.
Working with destinations, the travel industry and targeting the US market in particular, Marketing Manchester will lead a partnership to maximise the potential of the north of England.
At £7.9bn, Southern said that tourism is worth more to the city region than sectors such as financial and professional services, life sciences and creative, digital and tech.
Southern added: “Greater Manchester’s tourism sector is one of extraordinary success which is often overlooked. Thanks to Manchester Airport’s growth and continued success over the past five years, international visitors reached 1.4m 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.
“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.” Although occupancy rates took a hit in the wake of the Manchester Arena attack in May, Southern added that figures since show signs of recovery.
If Greater Manchester maintains a 5% level of growth the tourism sector will exceed its 2020 target value of £8.8bn by the end of 2019, a year ahead of schedule. The overall ambition for Greater Manchester, as stated in its internationalisation strategy, is to be a top 20 global city by 2035.
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 year.