Lancashire hotspots: Northern cities experience tourism boom

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

More than 40 per cent of visitors to the UK now include an overnight stay outside London

Northern England has thrown off its international reputation as a place of dark satanic mills and boarded-up terraces by confirming its position in the ranks of Britain's top tourist destinations.

The post-industrial renaissance of Manchester and Liverpool as well as Birmingham in the West Midlands has seen the cities eclipse the popularity of more traditional – and picturesque – tourism hot spots such as Oxford and Cambridge to report record increases in the number of visitors last year.

Figures from the national tourism agency VisitBritain show that while London and Edinburgh continue to dominate holiday itineraries, the reinvention of provincial cities is paying lucrative dividends.

More than four in 10 visitors to the UK now include an overnight stay in England outside the capital, the figures showed. In 2011 the number of people staying overnight in Manchester and neighbouring Salford rose 15 per cent to 936,000 – putting it in third place behind the English and Scots capitals.

The popularity of the city's two Premiership football teams, its shops, bars and restaurants and the development of Salford Quays, home to the Imperial War Museum North, the BBC and The Lowry arts centre are helping drive the boom, it was claimed.

Meanwhile, Liverpool, which has undergone a major refurbishment of its city centre shopping district, waterfront and enjoyed a multimillion pound cultural makeover in the past five years, overtook Glasgow for the first time to join the top five.

Patricia Yates, of VisitBritain, said: "These results confirm international visitors who might come here because of the global appeal of London are starting to appreciate our vibrant cities outside the capital, and the very different offerings of Edinburgh Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester."

Despite the euro crisis and global recession fears, 2011 proved a record year. The number of international visits hit 30.6 million while spending topped a record £17.2bn.

And amid mounting fears that the Olympics could lead to a reduction in tourists this year, as people stay away deterred by rocketing hotel prices and security fears, the early indications are that numbers are likely to remain broadly flat on last year – although still up on 2010.

Claire McColgan, director of culture at Liverpool City Council, said art, sport and events had been a central driver to the city's new confidence following its year as European Capital of Culture in 2008. "You cannot just sit back and say 'We have done that now'. Outside London you have to keep telling a different story all the time so that you keep getting people coming back. It is not just all about Beatles and football," she said.

In 2010-11, culture and the arts generated £1.6bn for the local economy and now supports an estimated 23,000 jobs in the city. Last month's Sea Odyssey celebration lured an estimated one million visitors to the Mersey waterfront. Liverpool's new arena and convention centre have also proved a magnet for high-end tourism.

Julia Fawcett, chief executive of The Lowry, also welcomed the figures. The £106m centre is the most popular tourist destination in Greater Manchester attracting 834,748 visitors last year.

Northern highlights: Top five attractions

The Lowry The arts complex was built 12 years ago and has led the regeneration of the Salford Quays. It is now the most popular attraction in Greater Manchester.

Another Place Antony Gormley's replicas of his own body on Crosby beach are submerged each day by the encroaching tide. Plans to move them to New York were dropped.

Sea Odyssey Liverpool Giant puppet display to coincide with the centenary of the Titanic was expected to attract 250,000 visitors. In the end more than a million turned up.

Manchester's beautiful game The world's most popular football team, United, now have competition from rivals Man City, delivering another boost to the city.

Arndale Centre Manchester's 1.5m sq ft shopping space attracts more than 38 million visitors a year. Its partial destruction in the 1996 IRA bombing led to the regeneration of Manchester city centre.

Britain's most visited: Tourist numbers

15m London

1.3m Edinburgh

0.9m Manchester

0.7m Birmingham

0.5m Liverpool

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Sport
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
New Articles
i100... with this review
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
News
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam