Sport and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has promised Birmingham ‘‘a revolution in domestic tourism’’ as the city bids to cash in on the 2012 Olympic Games.
The Conservative cabinet minister told an audience of hotel managers, marketing professionals and tourist attraction bosses at the Birmingham Hippodrome that the UK plc is launching it largest ever marketing campaign to coincide with the London Games.
As well as marketing Britain to the Japanese, Americans and Europeans, there will also be the biggest ever domestic tourism campaign to persuade Brits to take a ‘staycation’.
A key element will an advertising campaign featuring an as yet unknown celebrity stopping holidaymakers boarding an aeroplane – pointing them in the direction of regional attractions such as Shakespeare’s birthplace, Alton Towers and Warwick Castle.
Venues will be encouraged to make 20.12 per cent price cuts or special offers to entice visitors.
Mr Hunt said: “If by the end of next year all we have done is watch six weeks of sport on the telly, we will have missed a huge opportunity.
“We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to tell the world about Britain. The global spotlight is going to be on London and the wider country.”
He said that the world will know that the West Midlands was home to great literature, Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson and George Elliot, heritage like Kenilworth and Warwick castles, family attractions like Alton Towers and Cadbury World and the home of the industrial revolution through the Black Country Living Museum and Ironbridge Museum.
“It has been difficult with the financial crisis and spending cuts, so we are incredibly lucky to have, right at our moment of need, these Olympics.”
He said that his most recent experience of the West Midlands as a tourist was joining Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao for his visit to Stratford-upon-Avon – a meeting at which the Chinese Premier displayed an impressive knowledge of the bard’s work – including that he wrote 154 sonnets.
“The knowledge of Shakespeare across the world is incredible. But they should also know how important this region has been to the development of English literature.”
He also highlighted events coming to the West Midlands, including the torch relay which will visit all major towns and many smaller villages over seven days in June 2012, Birmingham’s US and Jamaican Olympic training camps and Coventry hosting the football.
And added that £500 million in contracts had gone to the region, the most outside London and the South East.
Companies to benefit include Slick Seating in Redditch, providing temporary seating for venues, Stuarts Industrial Flooring of Tamworth, which has floored the Velodrome, Zaun Fencing in Wolverhampton, providing security fencing, and RMD Kwikform in Walsall, providing steelwork for the Aquatics Centre, Golden Bear in Telford supplying the official mascots Wenlock and Mandeville and the Coventry-based Premier Group is producing 8,000 Olympic torches for the relay.
Birmingham City Council leader Mike Whitby said: “As a city we have already worked hard to ensure the impact of the Games are felt here through the hosting of the USA Track and Field Team and the Jamaica Track and Field Team.
"It is essential now that businesses take full advantage of the opportunities leveraged by the Games to ensure that we maximise the economic and cultural impact of this extra activity.”
The audience was largely appreciative of the efforts to boost tourism and quizzed the minister and his panel of Olympic officials over their aims and ambitions.
Stephen Cresswell of the Mint Hotel in Brindleyplace described the campaign and Olympic activity as ‘‘absolutely fantastic’’ and wanted to know how his business could maximise its offer.
Stuart Griffiths, chairman of the Southside BID, was keen to ensure that the smaller food, entertainment and tourism businesses of Birmingham could get involved.
Lincoln Clarke, of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, joked that a bench where the Chinese Premier sat has become ‘‘equally important for visitors from China’’ as Shakespeare himself.
He raised concerns about a projected fall in foreign visitors because those travellers are being advised by their own tour operators not to travel to Britain because it is full.
But the staycation would be a key message for the tourism campaign according to the chief executive of Visit England James Berresford. “People often think that a host Olympic country is busy, full and expensive and keep away. Our message has to be stay at home.”
Mr Hunt then viisited the University of Worcester to announce that £3 million National Lottery and Sport England funding was being used to build new community sports facilities in Worcester and Telford.