Liverpool city region's visitor economy is on target to become a £1bn a year sector by 2020, according to newly released independent data.
Official data compiled under the tourism industry's Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor model, which is known as the STEAM model, shows visitor spend during Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture in 2008 rose from £1.4bn to £1.6bn.
The Mersey Partnership, the sub-regional delivery partner for the Liverpool city region funded by the North West Development Agency, has identified further growth during the next decade to reach the £2bn milestone in its visitor economy strategy to 2020.
Lorraine Rogers, chief executive of TMP, said: "These new figures not only illustrate the massive success of tourism in Liverpool in 2008 but also the importance of the industry to our local economy. It's encouraging that all of our region's districts experienced a rise in the overall value of tourism in their areas. The growth in visitor spend confirms that we're on course to meet the ambitious targets set out in the City Region's Visitor Economy Strategy to 2020."
The value of tourism to Liverpool's economy rose by 25% during 2008, generating a total spend of £617m, up from £493m in 2007.
Liverpool city region's five other districts including Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral, also experienced a rise in the overall value of tourism activity in their areas.
The total number of visits to the destination rose from 63m to 75m, with day visitors rising by 20% and the number of visitors staying in hotels up by 6%.
Cllr Laurence Sidorczuk, Liverpool City Council's assistant executive member for enterprise and tourism, added: "Before the Capital of Culture year we forecast, in our bid document, spending growth in the tourism sector of 10% – in itself a very ambitious target. To have a 25% rise demonstrates what a phenomenal success the year was. Our challenge now is to build on that success in the coming years and I am sure we will rise to that challenge."
STEAM figures also show the number of jobs supported by businesses in the visitor economy. Liverpool has posted an increase with jobs supported rising by 11% from 7,697 to 8,521.
Nick Brooks-Sykes, director of tourism at the North West Development Agency, said: "These figures underline the significance of tourism to the North West's economy; this is one of our most important industries, worth more than £14bn across the region, and it is vital that we continue to support it. Liverpool has transformed itself into one of the UK's top visitor destinations, but there is no room for complacency. We must now maintain the momentum and continue to improve our offer if the city is to compete at an international level."
Overall, tourism now supports a total of 22,640 jobs across the Liverpool city region.