Birmingham attracted more international visits last year than ever before according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The research reports that there were almost one million visits to the city last year (941,000) - an increase of 228,000 on 2012’s figure of 713,000.
With numbers rising by a third (32%) in the last year alone, Birmingham’s growth in attracting visitors is higher than any other city in the UK. The national growth of international visits was just 5.6%, while London managed 8.6%.
Birmingham is the fourth most visited city in the UK, with the capitals London and Edinburgh, followed by Manchester leading the table. Birmingham has closed the gap on Manchester’s international visits from 219,000 to 47,000 in one year.
The city’s focus on key international visitor markets, including India and China appear to be reaping swift rewards. Direct flights from India and China as well as the City’s strategy to target these areas have led to an increase in visitor numbers. Sales missions and campaigns with Chinese and Indian travel agents are being cited as key reasons for the growth. With many booking trips online, Marketing Birmingham also points to their integrated online offer to make planning and booking trips to the City easier.
The boost in Birmingham’s profile has also attracted record levels of investment, with foreign direct investment in 2012/13 up by more than 50% against a national increase of just 11%*. This has created an additional 4,000 local jobs and is worth an estimated £174 million to the local economy per year.
Emma Gray, Director of Marketing, Marketing Birmingham, the city’s strategic marketing partnership, which operates leisure and business tourism programmes, Visit and Meet Birmingham said:
“Traditionally we’ve been known as a national destination with visitors coming from across the UK for our shopping, food and attractions. This is now widening and Birmingham is on the international map. Working with the Airport as well as Visit Britain we have focused on raising the city’s profile with international travellers, both business and leisure. Top attractions last year such as the Black Country Living Museum, the new Library of Birmingham and the 50 festivals that took place within the city all attracted overseas visitors.
“Our strategy has been to target international visitors and to focus on markets with large numbers of potential visitors. Our geographical position enables us to be a gateway to the UK, visitors can be based here and easily travel to all parts of the country. We also like to think that our range of attractions and our reputation for being a city of food, our shops and our warm welcome are noticed and all make a real difference to how we are perceived overseas.”
Paul Kehoe, Birmingham Airport’s Chief Executive and Chairman of Marketing Birmingham, said:
“These figures are testament to the partnerships in place to promote the city both in the UK and overseas and validates that Birmingham has become a world-class tourist destination.
“The Airport broke the nine million passengers mark last year for the first time since 2009, launched several new routes including Amritsar, Bordeaux, Knock, Stockholm and Barcelona, and saw growth on existing routes such as Dublin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, New York, Dubai, Knock and Istanbul; all key departure points for inbound tourists.
“This growth demonstrates that the Airport is playing a vital role in connecting Birmingham with the world and we are continually growing our network, with further new routes launching this year to Beijing, Porto, Cologne, Florence and many more.
“Greater connectivity and the continued drive by the Airport, Marketing Birmingham and other tourism partners to put the city and region on the map will ensure that Birmingham’s tourism figures will keep on climbing in this direction.”
Working together Marketing Birmingham and Birmingham Airport have attracted new routes into the city’s airport during 2013 including Delhi, Lyon, Gothenburg, Toulouse, Barcelona and Stockholm.
Birmingham attracted a record 33.8 million visitors in 2012, contributing £5.1 million to the local economy, an increase of 11% since 2006. This supported more than 61,000 jobs for the local workforce.
“Our strategy remains to target the international market, to continue to work with the airport and to promote Birmingham and its surrounding area to an international audience keen to visit as both a business as well as leisure traveller,” added Emma Gray.