Why Plymouth will be a top international tourist draw after 2020

Plymouth can use the 2020 Mayflower 400 celebrations to become a major international tourist destination for years to come, a conference has heard.

National and city-wide tourism chiefs are agreed that Plymouth is under-performing as a draw for foreigners – with just one per cent of visitors coming from overseas.

They say the city now has the opportunity to utilise millions of pounds of Government and private sector investment to change that.

And they said events to mark the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers’ Mayflower will be the “catalyst”.

“Plymouth has a unique opportunity over the next four years to transform itself as a visitor destination nationally and internationally,” said Adrian Vinken, chairman of Destination Plymouth and Mayflower 400.

“We have so much to offer but have not been broadcasting it or interpreting it.

“There is so much history around the city but we are not telling the Plymouth story.

“But we will be by 2020.”

Mr Vinken was speaking minutes before opening the Plymouth Tourism and Visitor Economy Conference 2016.

The event attracted more than 100 business chiefs to the New Continental Hotel to hear speeches from top industry experts.

Mr Vinken said Plymouth is well placed to build in a “massive amount of investment” – estimated at £333million – from projects such as the History Centre, the Bretonside leisure complex, cruise terminal, hotel on the Hoe, coach station and a revamped railway station.

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And he stressed: “All that is on the back of seizing this moment in time.

“We are drawing a massive amount of investment that would otherwise not be here.

“That will build towards a legacy beyond 2020 that should transform the city’s economy and culture.”

Amanda Lumley, chief executive of Destination Plymouth, said: “Only one per cent of visitors are coming from overseas, it’s very low and there is a lot of room for growth.”

She said Plymouth, along with nine other UK locations, is planning to tap into a £40million Government pot during the next three years to market the country ahead of Mayflower 400.

Destination Plymouth has already received £500,000 from Visit England to market a planned Mayflower trail around historic sites and Mrs Lumley said: “We will soon find out if we can put in a formal bid for £1.2million for a Plymouth-led national partnership.”

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Andrew Stokes, England director for Visit England, said the organisation has been tasked by the Government to increase the number of overseas visitors to Britain – but not London, which already pulls in half the current arrivals.

Mr Stokes, who travelled from the capital for the conference, said Plymouth can build on its already successful events programme – particularly the British Fireworks Championship and Armed Forces Day – to become a huge draw.

He said: “With the strength of Mayflower 400 activity and the developments we see in Plymouth we can see the visitor offer for Plymouth is improving.

“Now there is an opportunity for Plymouth to attract more domestic and international visitors.

“The city should be building on its events programme, it does that very well.”

He said there had been a two per cent increase in foreign tourism, and a four per cent hike in tourist spend, in the two months following the EU referendum.

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But he said the tourism “product” still needs to be “fit for the international market” and said: “That’s where Mayflower 400 is so exciting. It’s huge for Plymouth and other destinations in the UK.”

Deirdre Wells, chief executive of UKinbound, the 370-member trade association aiming to attract foreigners to the UK, said: “Plymouth is hugely important with Mayflower 400. It galvanises the city.”

Though London based, she worked on Liverpool’s successful bid to be European Capital of Culture and said: “Plymouth has an equal opportunity.”

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