In Lincoln, the tourism sector last year contributed £216 million to the local economy. At a time when high street shops struggle to compete with online counterparts and draw in the crowds, the ‘experience factor’ is the thing pulling people into the city.
This week, figures published by Global Tourism Solutions for the City of Lincoln Council revealed that the number of tourists coming to Lincoln grew by 25% in the last decade alone.
Councillor Ric Metcalfe, the council’s leader, put the growth down to popular events like the annual Lincoln Christmas Market and Asylum Steampunk festival. “We’ve known for years that Lincoln is one of the most appealing historic cities in the UK,” he said, “and now we know that millions of other people think that too”.
“Whilst the number of visitors has increased steadily by 40,000 from 2017 to 2018, what really stands out is the additional £13 million that visitors spent in the local economy,” added Lydia Rusling, CEO at Visit Lincoln.
The historical quarter is the picture-perfect pull that you’d expect to see on the ultimate Lincoln travel brochure. The majestic cathedral and newly modernised Lincoln Castle achieve much of the city’s promotion successes simply by boasting beauty from their crown jewel hilltop.
It’s also the area where visitors will find some of the biggest and most high profile events on the city’s calendar. We spoke to the team at Lincoln Castle about how they’re attracting new and returning visitors through the gates.
Kimberley Vickers said: “Last year, Lincoln Castle welcomed over 200,000 visitors through its gates. We want Lincoln Castle to be enjoyed and accessible to as wide an audience as possible.
“Each year we will introduce a new theme that will influence and refresh our event programme. Our 2019 programme has taken inspiration from the rise of the Victorian Circus. The Victorian extravaganza will bring a whole host of entertainment including the visiting showman, a Victorian band, a travelling insect museum and much more.”
She added the castle’s ethos for inclusivity also stretches to four-legged friends. “One of the most successful initiatives we have developed recently is our dog friendly weekends. There is a growing trend to increasingly open up sites and areas to dogs. Our dog friendly weekends are a great opportunity for us to bring more visitors to the site.
“Our after hours events next year will help to diversify the night time economy and help to provide a more balanced cultural offer into the evening. And of course, we will look to see the Christmas Emporium return this year.
“We are also introducing something slightly different and partnering with an unusual suspect to bring a new and exciting exhibition into the Victorian Prison.”
Prime Minster Theresa May last week took a break from packing to announce a Tourism Sector Deal which is set to benefit the county. It promises 130,000 new hotel rooms across the UK by 2025 and up to five Tourism Zones, which Lincolnshire leaders hope the county is in prime position for.
It will create a new Tourism Data Hub to allow businesses to better target overseas visitors and create 10,000 apprenticeships in the hospitality sector.
Greater Lincolnshire’s visitor economy is currently estimated to be worth £2.24 billion per year. Lydia Rusling said: “Greater Lincolnshire has a unique opportunity to transform its tourism offer now by bringing together the right people who can make the biggest difference.
“The city and county are ripe for tourism growth, unlike other more established destinations in the UK. LNER is already showing its commitment to Lincoln with increased rail services and accessibility, and this has been matched by the City of Lincoln Council’s new £30 million Transport Hub and £70 million of private sector investment in the neighbouring Cornhill Quarter.”
Is over-tourism dangerous?
Embrace it, but proceed with caution. The modern world of selfie marketing and the instagramable backdrop obsession has been known to saturate culture hotspots with gadget-wielding tourists, ‘pourists’ one might suggest.
They’ve made headlines by pouring in droves in to charming Debrovnik. The Telegraph reported recently cruise ship day-trippers were causing locals to fear the city had lost its soul.
By now, many of us will also have expressed a gasp at photos of queueing thrill-seekers attempting to climb the UK’s busiest mountain, Snowdon.
The Lincoln Christmas Market has its fair share of anti-pourism local protestors, but its economic benefits and opportunities for local businesses are clear.
There is demand for events and experiences of all shapes and sizes in the city, proven by the enthusiastic embrace from locals for festivals, food fairs, exhibitions and permanent attractions like the city’s new trampoline centre and water park.
The events and activities area could be key to amplifying and sustaining the visitor boom, as well as ensuring carefully thought out tourism is the powerhouse local people can visitors can get behind.
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