A WHOPPING 62.18 million people visited Cheshire West and Chester in 2016 – up 7.7 per cent year on year.

The latest tourism figures for the borough have estimated the value of the visitor economy at £1.937 billion.

Across Cheshire and Warrington, the value of the visitor economy is estimated at £3.376 billion.

The annual STEAM report, an independent analysis of the Cheshire and Warrington economy (2016), also reveals employment in the visitor sector is up by 6.1 per cent at an estimated 42,615.

Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, said: “The report has revealed the visitor economy in Cheshire West grew at a remarkable rate of 10.5 per cent in 2016, probably one of the fastest in England. I welcome this good news.

“It just goes to show we are definitely now a place of destination with over 35 million visits, thanks to all of our attractions.

“Most are day visits but there has still been a 6.1per cent growth in hotel stays.

“The council and our partners continue to develop attractions and itineraries that appeal and attract audiences to enjoy all that our area has to offer.”

Major attractions bringing visitors to West Cheshire include Chester itself plus the zoo, the races and the cathedral, Cheshire Oaks, the Ice Cream Farm at Tattenhall and, in Mid-Cheshire, the Anderton Boat Lift and the Lion Salt Works.

Katrina Michel, chief executive officer of Marketing Cheshire, said: “This has been a stunning performance.

“Chester and its environs is now a significant destination with world class attractions and a hotel and dining scene to match.

“Further afield, Bolesworth and Carfest go from strength the strength.

I can’t wait to see next year’s figures which will include Storyhouse, the Pokémon event and Chester Castle.”

The figures are supported by the latest footfall figures for Chester.

Data produced by Springboard show monthly footfall in Chester has risen by 11.7 per cent (compared to last year).

Cllr Clark told the Leader this represents a huge increase compared to the average UK fall in footfall of 0.5 per cent.

“It is very pleasing to see such positive footfall figures, against what is a very challenging outlook regionally and nationally,” he said.

“Footfall was down on average across UK high streets in July, so it is particularly welcome to see we were able to buck that trend in Chester.”

He added: “Tributes must be paid to a huge number of people for their hard work including our fantastic businesses, retailers and traders; the BID team; the council's events team; Chester Growth Partnership; Big Heritage; Chester Pride; Marketing Cheshire; Chris Matheson MP as a positive champion for the city and so many others.”