Why Leeds is Yorkshire’s new tourist destination

The British Art Show at the Leeds Art Gallery, last October. Picture by Simon Hulme
The British Art Show at the Leeds Art Gallery, last October. Picture by Simon Hulme
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TOURISM leaders have pledged to build on a boom in millions of visitors who have booked stays in the wake of a succession of international sporting and music events in a Yorkshire city.

Latest figures have shown that Leeds has enjoyed a renaissance in its tourism industry after the city was selected as the venue to host leading events including the Tour de France’s Grand Départ, the MOBO music awards, the British Art Show and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Visitor figures for last year are up 5.3 per cent since 2013, a survey has found, with 26m tourist visits to the city recorded.

The international spotlight could once again fall on Leeds if it is successful in its bid to be selected as the European Capital of Culture in 2023, which council leaders have claimed is vital to maintaining the momentum in the city’s tourism sector.

Leeds City Council’s leader, Coun Judith Blake, said: “We know Leeds is a welcoming city, but these figures show the wider appeal to visitors.

“We have built up a fantastic reputation for hosting world-class events that people come from far and wide to enjoy.

“Tourism like this has a significant impact on the Leeds economy, helping to create and sustain jobs for people who live here. We hope to really build on this with the bid for the European Capital of Culture in 2023, to ensure the city remains one of the most sought after visitor destinations in the UK.”

Leeds has already staged a series of globally-important sporting events including the Grand Départ of 2014’s Tour de France, which set off from outside the city’s Town Hall.

Other events include hosting two games for last year’s Rugby Union World Cup at Leeds United’s home ground of Elland Road as well as the British Art Show in October.

A glittering awards ceremony for the MOBOs, which celebrate music of black origin, was staged at the First Direct Arena in November last year, while the 60th BBC Sports Personality of the Year show was broadcast live from the same venue in December 2013.

The new figures from the STEAM survey, released by ConferenceLeeds and VisitLeeds, show the visitor economy sector is growing at an impressive rate with day visitors up by 4.7 per cent and overnight stays increasing by 12.5 per cent.

As well as playing host to the major events, the groups say, the wealth of museums and galleries amplify the city’s strong heritage and history, while it is ranked in fifth spot among the UK’s leading shopping destinations. The Trinity Leeds shopping centre opened in 2013, attracting 130,000 visitors on its opening day.

Jennifer Young, the head of ConferenceLeeds, said: “This year’s results are a true testament to the ongoing collaboration of city stakeholders that takes place throughout the city.”