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The £1B West Midlands Tourist Strategy Has Launched

Victoria Square Birmingham
The Heart of Birmingham: Victoria Square

A regional tourism strategy to grow the West Midlands’ visitor economy by more than £1B has been launched. It also aims to create a further 19,000 jobs for the region by growing the tourist economy from £12.6B in 2018 to £13.7B by 2029, a 9% increase.

The strategy (you can read it here) comes as headwinds grow. Regional leaders acknowledge that Brexit issues and other global concerns are combining to create a more challenging market environment — with a 3% decline in international tourist numbers UK-wide and an 8% decline in the region in 2018.

What does the strategy, devised by the West Midlands Growth Co., mean for real estate? Here are the three big property takeaways.

1. Aim For A Five-Star Hotel

Some target overseas markets, like high-spending customers from the
Middle East and the United States, demand the world's best hotel accommodation. The premium end of the business travel market (another target) would also like to explore five star. But there are no five-star hotels in the centre of any West Midlands area. Birmingham needs something like Salford's city centre Lowry Hotel if it is to compete.

"The case should be made with more detailed analysis along with the identification of potential sites, owners, investors and operators that could be attracted to invest in the opportunity," the report said.

However, five-star hotel operators know the value of their brand and luring one into a development partnership could be costly. Other elements of any scheme, such as city living apartments, may have to carry the financial weight.

2. The Commonwealth Games Will Do The Heavy Lifting

Showcasing world-renowned events such as Coventry City of Culture 2021 and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 to a wider audience is central.

This will be reinforced by a joint regional bid for one of the Government’s new Tourism Zones, which aim to drive visitor numbers across the country, extend the season and tackle local barriers to tourism growth.

Tourism Zones aspire to change the tourist economy by injecting a massive number of new hotel rooms. The aim is to prepare Britain for an extra 9 million visitors per year, with commitment to build 130,000 new hotel rooms by 2025. You can read the government's announcement here.

The TV show Peaky Blinders is one of the four key magnets, along with Shakespeare, Birmingham's appeal to young footloose urban weekenders and the business travel generated by the NEC.

3. Build Tourism Into Everything

Literally everything has a potential tourist impact, and landlords/developers are encouraged to take this into account. They might also match the new tourist strategy against the regional industrial strategy to discover the overarching importance of the use of augmented reality, artificial intelligence and other digital applications to encourage new visits and extended stays. Inventive approaches will be rewarded, the document hints.