Wakefield wants to be the UK's 'sculpture capital' under new tourism plan

Wakefield is aiming to become the UK’s ‘sculpture capital’ by 2029 under a new tourism plan.

Wakefield Council is set to adopt to an ambitious blueprint designed to boost the economic impact of tourism by 15 per cent over the next five years.

The new Wakefield district destination management plan (DMP) aims to capitalise on the district being the birthplace of world-renowned sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore.

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The district is already home to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and The Hepworth Wakefield gallery. In 2019, tourism is estimated to have been worth £507m to the district, with ten million visitors. Tourism also accounted for seven per cent of employment at the time.

The Hepworth WakefieldThe Hepworth Wakefield
The Hepworth Wakefield

A report says: “Like other destinations around the country, the global pandemic resulted in a significant reduction in visitors to the district, creating a devastating impact to both the cultural sector and wider tourism and hospitality businesses.”

In 2021, the council set up a core tourism team to help rebuild the visitor economy. The venture led to the redevelopment of the Experience Wakefield tourism website which received 461,339 visits in the last financial year and showcased 484 businesses.

The report adds: “The focus of the DMP being to develop a coordinated approach for the district to become a must-visit destination by 2029, and on the way bring direct benefits and foster civic pride for those who live here.”

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The DMP has been complied after contributions from businesses, transport providers, Visit England, councillors and officers.

The report says: “This new direction will consider the needs of visitors, local residents, business and the environment and will increase the liklihood of us achieving our vision to be recognised as the UK capital of sculpture, a gateway to culture in the north and a dynamic must-see destination.”

Other targets include increasing overnight visitor numbers by five percent and increasing visitor satisfaction rates by ten per cent. The council’s cabinet is expected to adopt the DMP at a meeting on June 18.

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