They’re used to packed houses at Bradford’s Edwardian Alhambra Theatre, and the 1,100 who filled the stalls and two circles for today’s matinee were even more receptive than usual.
They were there on business, as representatives of Yorkshire’s tourism industry, a success story unmatched in recent times. Less easy to quantify than the trades that defined the county in the past, it is nevertheless now worth £8bn to the region’s economy, they were told.
The figure is 14 per cent, or £1bn, higher than when the last measure was taken, in 2011.
Since then, the Grand Depart of the Tour de France and the annual running of the Tour de Yorkshire races created in its wake have begun to establish the county as a cycling holiday destination – and the Alhambra audience heard that £5m would be spent in the next decade to promote the North York Moors to riders. Around £1m worth of advertising on screen and in print will be seen in the next year alone.
The tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire, which orchestrated the “Y18” conference – the largest such event in the UK – also announced £1m to promote Yorkshire throughout Europe as a holiday destination for cyclists, with packaged holidays targeted particularly at travellers in Germany and Holland.
The headline announcement at the conference, based on research by Sheffield Hallam University, confirmed that in 2016, the last full year for which figures are available, tourists spent a total of £6.5bn in Yorkshire. The “supply chain effect” of tourism added a further £1.5bn.
Of the total, the county’s 4,800 hotels, guest houses and B&Bs shared a pot of £1.6bn, with day-trippers spending £4.3bn and overseas travellers £516m.
The researchers calculated that visitors from abroad stayed in the region 11 per cent longer than previously – but that by far the largest proportion of tourists had come from elsewhere in Yorkshire.
It was also reported that day-trips were up by eight per cent on previous measures – double the national average for England. The amount they spent also increased.
The Yorkshire attractions said to have seen the biggest growth included the nature reserves of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre, Halifax’s Eureka children’s museum, Barnsley’s Cannon Hall Farm and the Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Doncaster.
Tourism in Yorkshire is estimated to support around 11 per cent of the county’s workforce – equivalent to around 243,000 jobs.
The show, like most at the Alhambra, was replete with stars, and top billing went to cyclist Lizzie Deignan, the reigning Tour de Yorkshire women’s champion.
She revealed that the week-long UCI Road World Cycling Championships, in September 2019 would start in the theatre’s shadow, in the centre of Bradford. The event will have Harrogate as its hub.
Ms Deignan also spoke of her role as ambassador of the new Cycle Expo event, which will see 20,000 cycling fans descend on Harrogate this October.
Bradford will be the focus of another new campaign centred on its , which will see some of the country’s top food writers taking part in culinary trails through the city’s diverse network of restaurants.
Plans were also confirmed for a biennial digital arts festival in York, the Mediale – a 10-day programme of exhibitions, performances and workshops beginning on September 27.
Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said after today’s conference that tourism in the county was at “an all-time high”, and called the event “a fantastic showcase for Yorkshire”.
He said: “Tourism is now worth an incredible £8bn to the county’s economy. Add to that the record breaking visitor numbers that many of our top attractions have had and it just goes to show just how strong the Yorkshire brand really is.”
Sir Gary added: “Yorkshire is competing on a global scale.”
Guests today included Emmerdale actor Dominic Brunt and comedian Billy Pearce, star of 20 Bradford pantomimes, who received a “Pride of Yorkshire” award.