I am one of those people who does not really do much about Christmas until Advent starts. However, the team here at Visit Harrogate understands that there are lots of people who like to plan ahead and want to look at ideas for celebrating the festive season well in advance.
For that reason we have just launched our new Christmas Guide to the Harrogate District.
It is packed with information about Christmas events, Christmas light switch-ons, carols, festive food and a smattering of Dickens.
There are opportunities to plan your Christmas shopping around the district’s Christmas markets but also a lot of other gift ideas.
We are also tracking Father Christmas’s progress through the district with information about his stopping off places with opportunities to see him both out in the open and inside, to listen to him telling Christmas stories and even have breakfast with him! The guide is free and is available from tourist information centres.
We are also looking forward to a new feature for this year’s Christmas: the special Harrogate Christmas Market trains that Virgin East Coast Trains are providing on the 19 and 20 November.
These will run directly between London Kings Cross and Harrogate and will certainly put Harrogate on the national Christmas market map.
Looking even further forward we are now putting together the 2017 Visitor Guide.
This will be in Tourist Information Centres the length and breadth of the country as well as being available online to encourage domestic visitors to the area. Planning further ahead the mini-guides to the district will be available for the new tourist season in Easter. These are for use once the visitor arrives with useful pocket sized maps to the towns and city of the district and useful information to help people make the most of their visit.
Visit Britain has just published its Annual review for 2015/16. 2015 saw record numbers of overseas visitors coming to this country.
It comes as no surprise that London remains the most popular place but spending by international tourists outside London also rose to £7.5 billion.
Trips to the English regions were up to 15.2 million.
There is every indication that 2016 will see further growth especially with the decline in the value of the pound making this country more appealing as a holiday destination.
As of August 2016, the UK was 20% cheaper for visitors from the Eurozone and 19% cheaper for visitors from the USA compared to a year before. This makes this country an attractive option for tourists looking to maximise what they get for their money, bringing their holiday pounds here and benefitting the British economy.
Visit Britain reports that ‘more international visitors were eager to explore outside of London, choosing to visit a range of English regions’.
The challenge to places like the Harrogate District is to ensure that our name is there when these visitors are looking to go beyond tourist hotspots like London and Edinburgh and they choose us rather than anywhere else. Visit Harrogate is currently looking at how to encourage those very tourists.
The overseas travel buyers who attended the Best of the North event last year were bowled over with what we have to offer – we just have to make it easy for those visitors to find us. It is early days yet, but, as they say, “Watch this space”.
There are a number of ways in which we can draw the district’s attention to potential overseas visitors.
One is to host events with international coverage.
Of course we have experience of this in hosting the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in 2014 and who can fail to remember those stunning aerial shots of this district.
As I write this column we are eagerly awaiting news of at least one event that could bring further international attention to the region and fingers crossed that Harrogate might have some part to play.
Half term activities
Finally after all this talk of Christmas and next year it might be easy to overlook half term. However the district has that covered.
A lot our attractions are organising special events and there is something to keep everyone happy in and around the area; whatever the weather.
While some of these activities charge an entrance fee there are plenty of things to keep the children amused without breaking the bank.
Not only are there events just for the youngsters there is plenty going on to entertain the whole family.
There is plenty of information at www.visitharrogate.co.uk/events/half-term.