The TOURISM economy for Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire could be worth £1bn by 2018 with the added boost from the year-long celebrations of the forthcoming UK City of Culture.
The aim is to create an extra 3,500 new jobs in tourism in the region in the next two years. The value of tourism has risen from £704m in 2012 to £826m in 2015, with visitor overnight stays up from 3.83m to 4.34m.
The number of workers employed in tourism has also shot up from 15,442 to 17,442, and total day trips now stand at 14.6m.
Tourism expert Prof John Lennon, from Glasgow Caledonian University, said the year-long arts project, which starts on Sunday, would have a major impact on people’s perceptions of the city.
He said: “Achieving £1bn in 2018 is not an insurmountable goal when you roll in the year of culture in 2017. Hull has the title till 2021 and they will still get a strong legacy after that.
“I am old enough to remember when Glasgow received European Capital of Culture in 1990 and it was transformational for that city and perceptions of it.”
Investment into Hull includes £106m of Hull Council’s money into capital projects, including the city centre upgrade. There has also been £78m of private investment into the city’s new arts and cultural quarter, the Fruit Market, on the Marina.
Prof Lennon pointed to the £20m Double Tree development by Hilton Hotel on Ferensway and the £36m conference and music centre off Castle Street, as well as upgrades in the East Riding, including to Bridlington Spa.
He claimed the long-term partnership between Hull and East Riding councils was crucial in creating an attractive product for visitors, and said: “The strength of the two are more than either of them individually.”
Dutch inbound operator House of Britain is aiming for a 20 per cent increase in visitors in the City of Culture year and will be promoting Hull at a major travel show in Utrecht in January.
“Our target is 2,000 visitors, hopefully more,” said managing director Aad van Duivenbode.
Mr van Duivenbode, who has known the city for three decades, said visitors from Holland were beginning to see it as a destination in its own right – not just an entry point for Yorkshire.
“It has started to become a very modern town with some historic sites,” he said.
The hoped-for boom in for visitors – City of Culture aims to attract 1m visitors to Hull – comes after record levels of investment and unemployment dropping at a faster rate than any other city. Unemployment now stands at 6,000, down from 16,000 in 2009.
The council’s director of regeneration, Mark Jones, said big investments outside the city centre yet to have an impact, adding: “The Siemens (blade factory) hasn’t completed recruitment. Reckitt Benckiser are still building their research and development centre and Charlie Spencer’s Energy Works hasn’t opened. The New Theatre hasn’t reopened. They are all yet to kick in, in terms of economic impact.”
Global investment funds for the first time have been approaching the city council looking to invest in long-term projects. The authority is looking to develop a £50m cruise terminal and wants to redevelop a key city site called Albion Square.
Mr Jones said troubled times lay ahead, with further public sector cuts, Brexit as well as global uncertainty, but believes there is the momentum, aided by City of Culture, to ride it out.
See The Yorkshire Post Saturday Magazine which will be a special edition focusing on Hull UK City of Culture 2017 .