Leicester’s aspirations to drive up its tourism revenue by £590m by 2020 have already been beaten, according to figures just released.
The city council’s Tourism Action Plan, which was drawn up in 2015 to develop and promote the city as a tourist destination, set a goal for tourism to bring in £590 million to the city by 2020.
But latest figure for the city’s economy show that figure was exceeded by 2016 – the first full year of the Tourism Action Plan’s work – when tourism was credited with generating £606 million into the city.
Interest in the city nationally and internationally was sparked by the unprecedented worldwide publicity surrounding the discovery and reburial of King Richard III, as well as the fairytale story of Leicester City Football Club’s Premiership and Championship success.
Now, the council is focusing on building on that success with further investment across the tourism sector, from museums, cultural activities and visitor attractions, to public open spaces, hotels and improved transport links.
The latest report outlining the progress of the Tourism Action Plan 2015-2020 was presented to a meeting of Leicester City Council’s economic development, transport and tourism scrutiny commission.
It focuses on work already done around improving the range and quality of the city’s tourism assets and associated infrastructure, as well as revealing ongoing work to strengthen the city’s image and ensure people working in the tourism and hospitality sectors have the right training and skills.
The report also outlines a new marketing brand for Leicester’s tourism drawn up as part of an extensive place marketing programme.
Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “The amazing success stories surrounding King Richard III and Leicester City Football Club have put the city firmly in the limelight over the last few years.
“But the challenge since then has been to build on that and ensure that the increase in tourism which we have seen can be sustainable.
“We are working on developing future visitor attractions and working closely with the tourism sector such as hotels, restaurants and businesses across the city top further enhance Leicester’s reputation as a popular tourist destination.
“The figures from the Tourism Action Plan are extremely encouraging, showing that we’ve already exceeded our targets for 2020.
“They also show that there’s been a notable increase in visitors coming from further afield, both nationally and internationally, and this in turn means a bigger potential market for to promote two or three-night stays in the city.
“Leicester has a huge amount to offer, and the Tourism Action Plan is in place to ensure we make the most of the city’s assets.”
The report shows that the city’s museums and heritage sites attracted over 417,000 visitors in 2016/17, while more than 70,000 visited the King Richard III Visitor Centre.
The National Space Centre welcomed a record 314,000 visitors in 2016, boosted by interest in astronaut Tim Peake’s space mission.
Almost one million people are estimated to have engaged with Curve in 2016/17, with its Christmas season that year being its most successful ever.
Work is also underway to improve existing venues in the city, including refurbishing the former Haymarket Theatre which is due to reopen in 2018 as a venue for activities including eSports, live music and theatrical training.
Plans are also well advanced for the revamp of Jewry Wall Museum into a national visitor attraction telling the story of Roman Leicester, with work also underway in partnership with the Great Central Railway and National Railway Museum to develop a new visitor attraction telling the story of the city and county’s railways.
Other key events in the city’s calendar have included The Leicester Comedy Festival, Bring the Paint festival of street art, City Festival, Diwali and the Caribbean Carnival.