Birmingham is a more popular destination than ever, according to new figures that show nearly 32 million people visited the city last year.
The visitors – a new record high and an improvement of 1.5 million on the year before – brought £4.4 billion into the city, according to figures released by Marketing Birmingham.
Neil Rami, chief executive of Marketing Birmingham, said the figures highlighted the importance of tourism to the regional economy. He said: “Events are also an excellent way of showcasing the city and recent successes such as the European Athletics Indoor Championships, BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Style in the City, and the British Olympic team trials, as well as the forthcoming Conservative Party Conference all help to project Birmingham onto a national and international stage and help to position it as a first choice destination for leisure and business.”
Early predictions suggest 2008 will see a further modest rise in visitors of about two per cent. The figures showed increases in spending by visitors in almost every sector, with food and drink performing particularly well, up £55 million on the year before.
Recreation saw an increase of £40.5 million, with venues like Symphony Hall, Birmingham Hippodrome and The Rep, drawing big crowds.
But by far the biggest increase was in spending on retail. Visitors spent £242 million more on shopping in Birmingham in 2007 than in 2006, with a total of more than £1.6 billion being spent in Birmingham’s shops.
The only sector of the leisure economy to see a drop was accommodation, with £6 million less spent on hotels than the year before.
And Marketing Birmingham has launched a new web page to help newcomers find their way around the city,
The online service (here) features a a route planner showing pictures of accessible routes from drop off points such as the nearest bus stop or car park.
It was designed to help disabled and first time visitors, parents with pushchairs and people carrying luggage with photographs and detailed directions that can be printed off in advance, or accessed via a 3G phone connection using the free WiFi in the city centre.
Tim Manson, the director of operations and policy at Marketing Birmingham said: “Large cities and major tourist attractions can feel confusing, not only for disabled and older people, but also if it’s the first time you have visited. We have developed this new facility to illustrate how convenient and accessible the city is and encourage everyone to come and experience it.
“We are now working across the city to encourage more businesses to get involved. The majority have been very receptive; particularly those with a strong sense of corporate and social responsibility. It has a positive impact on the way the city is perceived and we are particularly keen to involve hotels over the coming months.”
The service is available through the Information section of visitbirmingham.com and includes venues such as Cadbury World, The ICC and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. It also includes a complete cross-city route and an assessment of many city centre shopping areas including the Bullring.
The access information was compiled by researchers at Direct Enquiries and takes into account a number of potential obstacles including steps, road crossings and widths of pathways.
The Direct Enquiries service also provides a wider service detailing access information for services including banks and public toilets.