Today’s blog comes from Kathryn Davis, Head of Tourism at Destination Bristol
This week sees Bristol host the UKinbound Annual Tourism Convention. This is in recognition of Bristol’s growing reputation as a visitor destination, with a visitor economy now worth over £1bn.
Bristol is a UNESCO City of Film. We’re home to Aardman animation, creators of Wallace and Gromit and has been used as a filming location in many popular TV programmes and films. We were crowned Best Culinary Destination in the World at the Food Travel Association’s Food Trekking Awards, and one of the Best European Cities to visit by The Independent. In 2015, Bristol was the first UK city to hold the title of European Green Capital and we are a Fairtrade city.
So there’s a lot to shout about. Destination Bristol has been supporting and developing the visitor economy in Bristol and South Gloucestershire for 20 years, during which time its value has almost doubled.
More places to stay and more reasons to visit mean that we have enjoyed sustained growth. Around 80% of all staying visitors are estimated to come from within the UK. And with around 20% of all staying visitors estimated to come from overseas, this makes Bristol one of the most visited towns and cities by international visitors in the UK (currently ranked 7th).
So why do people come?
Business events and conferences are a critical part of the visitor economy. Worth around £307m, those here on business are likely to visit because, well, they have to. Attracting conferences and other business events to the region is a year-round task, which involves investing in relationships with professional organisers, agencies and influencers, developing marketing communications and connecting with organisers at a variety of trade shows and events.
Those coming for leisure come for a wide range of reasons, often simply to see a band, play or performance, attend a festival or event, try a certain restaurant or visit a specific attraction.
Street art continues to attract people from around the world, as does our reputation for a diverse nightlife and outstanding food and drink scene. Bristol’s evolution as a place of independent, sustainable and collaborative businesses and experiences means that it is genuinely unlike anywhere else. Something we often take for granted living here.
World class events such as the Cricket World Cup in 2019 undoubtedly bring huge numbers of visitors and attract worldwide attention. But it is the everyday range of activities, experiences, events and attractions that make Bristol such an attractive proposition for visitors. Visitor research has shown that often it isn’t always just one thing, but the broader offer that make Bristol such a popular place to visit.
There is a phenomenal amount of work that takes place to maintain interest in the city region as a visitor destination. In the last 12 months, this has included articles being produced in countries including the UK, USA, China, Germany, The Netherlands, France, and Spain. This not only acts as inspiration to visit but builds a ‘soft power’, raising the profile of the city region as a whole.
As well as short breaks focussed in and around the city, we highlight Bristol as a base to explore other places within the region, using sustainable travel solutions wherever possible. For instance, there are a wide range of rail passes, some available exclusively for international visitors, which enable uncomplicated off-peak travel in a short period.
There are at least 45 religions, 187 countries of birth and 91 main languages spoken in the city. This diversity means our communities are often well-connected internationally. It is critical that Bristol remains open and welcoming to all – from those who live here year-round, to those visiting from the rest of the UK and overseas.
Ultimately, it is the people of Bristol who make this such a special place to be.