Plans unveiled to draw one million additional visitors to Harrogate

Visit Harrogate is aiming to attract more visitors and bolster the tourism sector
Visit Harrogate is aiming to attract more visitors and bolster the tourism sector

A strategy to bolster the district’s multi- million pound tourism sector has been unveiled, with the potential to generate around 1,000 jobs by attracting a million new visitors.

Businesses and organisations from across the sector gathered at the Pavilions of Harrogate for an industry conference hosted by Visit Harrogate on Tuesday, where a target of five per cent year on year growth through to 2020 was announced.

CEO of Visit Harrogate, Richard Spencer, said that while the district currently attracts millions of visitors, more could be done to see it continue to thrive.

He said:“The government thinks that tourism is performing significantly under capacity across the country and they want to see more from us and businesses. And we know that more tourism means more derived wealth and employment opportunities.

“A target has been set for growth of five percent, including an inflation allowance, year on year to 2020. In 2017 tourism in the district counted for around £500 million to the visitor economy, both direct and indirect, employing around 7,000 people and attracting 6.5 million visitors. To see this keep on growing is our ambition.”

If this figure can be achcieved, it is believed the sector could grow to the value of £634 million.

Over the course of Tuesday’s morning conference, presentations covering the characteristics of tourism in Harrogate highlighted that while the district has an above average occupancy rate for rooms, around 270,000 are unused over a year. It is believed if additional visitors can be attracted around £90 million could be generated from filling these.

Visit Harrogate is to pursue a number of marketing and PR campaigns across the district, including a new food and drink guide.

Currently around 50 bars and restaurants are signed up to be showcased in the Eat:Drink guide, a joint venture with Festival Publications which is scheduled to launch later this year. Plans are also in place to expand this to cover country pubs and other businesses.

Mr Spencer said: “This is a recognition campaign, for both the contribution these businesses make to the district’s economy and it is a response to the challenges they are facing in town and no doubt elsewhere.”

There are also plans for user-generated campaign competitions, with prizes available, which will be in association with brewer Bad Co. All of this will be packaged on Visit Harrogate’s own number one Google ranked destination website.

Independent businesses are also to be supported through further work by Visit Harrogate. Around 100 businesses are signed up to participate in a scheme to advertise their locations through tourist information and a press campaign.

Mr Spencer said: “This initially is to be trialled in town but will be expanded next year to the rest of the district. We have 100 businesses represented right across the town. We are going to devise a town trail, which will be highlighted on the tourist information centre maps to discover these locations. Then we are going to launch a high volume press campaign involving these independent businesses which we intend to bring to market this summer.”

Further work is also to be done to attract more events to the district, with the conference also seeing confirmation dates in September for the UCI Road Cycling World Championships which is coming to Harrogate.

The World’s will take place from September 22 to 29, with 6,000 team members from 90 countries expected to attend.

Among those attending the conference was Philip Standen, owner of the Acorn Lodge bed and breakfast in Harrogate.

Welcoming news of support for independents he also highlighted the need for new events to draw visitors to the town.

He said afterwards: “The news of support for independents was a massive thing for us and I hope they will include bed and breakfasts within this as part of the marketing.
“It looks like they are looking to bring more business to the town and they are working hard to partner with others to stimulate the economy .”
“Harrogate needs more attractions to draw people into town. The draw still seems to be things like Bettys or Harlow Carr, so hopefully this will mean more can be done.”