‘Longer stays’ key to boosting Lancashire’s visitor economy

 

Encouraging visitors to Lancashire to stay longer has been highlighted as the key to boosting the Red Rose County’s visitor economy.

 

Tourism experts at a special debate held in the region said major attractions, hotel businesses and transport operators should look to work together on promotions and marketing to offer visitors value for money and more reasons to lengthen their stays.

 

The issue was discussed at the annual Lancashire Tourism Roundtable, hosted in Blackpool by Moore and Smalley Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors, and attended by hoteliers and tourism bosses.

 

The panel highlighted this year’s British Open Golf Championship at Royal Lytham and the Preston Guild celebrations as two key opportunities for tourism operators to capitalise on an increase in visitor numbers.

 

Judith Dugdale, head of Moore and Smalley’s tourism and leisure team, said: “There’s clearly so much for Lancashire to market to visitors from elsewhere in the UK and further afield. I think we still don’t make enough of Lancashire’s proximity to Manchester, Liverpool and the Lakes to draw in more visitors. You could base yourself in Lancashire for a whole week and have a completely different experience every day. We have to make more of that selling point.”

 

Roger Carter, chairman of Bay Tourism, which represents Morecambe’s tourism industry said operators had to find ways of offering better value for money to “turn more days out into days away”.

 

He said: “It is one of the biggest concerns of hoteliers in our region that people are not taking ‘staycations’ but ‘daycations’, where visitors will park for two hours, go for a walk and then go home. Of course that’s great for the region and should be encouraged, but we also need to get more people from outside the area coming to stay for a night or two and spending money in the area.”

 

Mike Wilkinson, chief executive of Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board, said: “Of the 58 million visitors that come to Lancashire, 86 per cent of those are day visitors and they produce about 46 per cent of the £3billion visitor spend. In other words, 10 per cent of the trips give us nearly half the visitor spend, so that’s how important staying visitors are.”

 

Haydn Spedding, of the UK hotels team at Colliers International, said: “We need to look at an attract and disperse principle of bringing people to the county, but also saying, ‘have you been here’, ‘why not try here’ and so on. We need to get the attractions across the county thinking laterally, perhaps offering discounts as part of a holiday package.”

 

Claire Smith, of Number One Hotels and president of Stay Blackpool, added: “Fundamentally, we need to look at ways of changing the product from many individual offerings to one giant attraction that can take on other areas.”

 

Among the other issues discussed at the roundtable were how the county can the make the most of the Olympics to attract foreign visitors and maximise other major sporting and cultural events taking place in 2012, such as golf’s Open Championship and the Preston Guild celebrations.