CHESTER’S economy has received a boost after the latest tourism figures show a 4.5 per cent growth in the area.
The latest annual STEAM analysis of the area’s visitor economy shows in 2013 Cheshire West and Chester’s tourism industry grew by 4.5 per cent and is now worth £1.51 billion.
Last year, visitors spent £92 million on accommodation, £60 million on things to see and do, £577 million on shopping and £300 million on food and drink.
The tourism industry in Cheshire West and Cheshire now employs 20,826 people directly and indirectly.
The area attracted more than 29.02 million visitors in 2013, a 2.5 per cent increase on the previous year.
Hotel occupancy rates in Chester have risen 6.5 per cent to 75.9 per cent.
Marketing Cheshire’s chief executive, Katrina Michel, welcomed the latest figures.
She said: “We welcome the latest independent evaluation on the visitor economy.
“The area continues to enjoy a solid growth in the value and volume of the visitor economy, which now provides employment for a significant number of people.
“We are wholly committed to developing the full potential of the visitor economy to generate more jobs, greater prosperity and a better quality of life for the community.
“There are lots of positive things happening in Chester which should help to maintain the positive momentum.
“The new Cathedral at Height experience will add another dimension to Chester’s great range of attractions and give visitors a completely new perspective on the cityscape.
“Work is also well under way on Chester Zoo’s Islands project that is set to generate an extra 150,000 visitors to the most visited attraction outside of London, with 1.5million already passing through its gates. In summer, we will also be welcoming back Open-Air Theatre in Grosvenor Park with a superb line-up of plays and the sensational Chester Rocks adds an extra day of live performances at the racecourse.”
The news comes soon after another independent assessment of the city’s theatre complex, which says it will bring in 625,000 people into the city each year and generate £16million into the city’s economy.
Cllr Stuart Parker, executive member for culture and recreation at Cheshire West and Chester Council, said the figures were “encouraging”.
He said: “Tourism is vitally important to the success of our local economy.
“Its growth generates prosperity and jobs so the latest evaluation of the visitor economy is very encouraging news for the community.
“We have invested significantly in environmental improvements in Chester including the city walls and towers, the riverside frontage, the Roman Amphitheatre and Gardens and have added new interpretation panels to help visitors find their way to key attractions and explain their historic significance.
“We have also made significant investment in culture and the arts and provide funding for parades and festivals taking place in Chester to enhance the quality of life for local people and attract visitors.
“Our new theatre, cinema and library are set to open in 2016 and will enhance the visitor experience and Grosvenor Park will be returned to its Victorian splendour this summer following a £3m restoration project.
“We want a prosperous and vibrant visitor economy and are investing for future success.”
Chester MP, Stephen Mosley, said: “Those of us who live in Chester know what an amazing city this is.
“Between the stunning cathedral, our world-famous rows and our thriving high street, Chester has something for everybody.
“I’m delighted to see our visitor economy is growing and our hotels are filling up. These figures are a clear sign our long-term economic plan is delivering for Chester. We’re creating the jobs, backing the businesses and seeing the benefit for our fantastic city.”