“Collaboration is key to unleashing the vast potential of the region’s visitor economy” – that’s the overriding message from the annual Visit Peak District, Derbyshire & Derby Tourism Conference which took place on Wednesday 22nd November at Buxton Crescent Hotel.
The conference was the first major business-to-business event hosted by Visit Peak District & Derbyshire in collaboration with Visit Derby as the area’s official Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP).
The event brought together over 120 industry leaders to discuss tourism insights, emerging trends and new opportunities for growth and collaboration. It also highlighted the importance of accessibility and sustainability in strengthening the area’s tourism offer and attracting new visitors to the destination.
As new research from the 2022 Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor, commonly known as STEAM, revealed the challenges facing the sector, the conference also highlighted issues including rising costs, high inflation and post-pandemic changes in consumer behaviour.
Opening the conference, Jo Dilley, Managing Director of Visit Peak District & Derbyshire, announced the area’s tourism sector is now worth £2.59 billion to the local economy – an increase of 4% since 2019.
However, against the backdrop of high inflation, the figures reveal that although the total revenue generated across the Peak District and Derbyshire by the sector was up on pre-pandemic levels, overall visitor numbers in 2022 were 7% down.
The data also shows that whilst stays in non-serviced accommodation were 10.5% up on 2019 levels, jobs supported by the visitor economy were 12.5% down (against a national decline of 20%). Stays in serviced accommodation and the number of serviced bed spaces in the destination continue to remain below 2019 levels, providing an insight into changing visitor behaviour.
Visit Peak District, Derbyshire & Derby’s status as an LVEP – a new national portfolio of accredited tourism organisations, administered by VisitEngland – was a key focus of the conference and delegates heard how the organisation will drive tourism strategy for the region, working in partnership with local, regional and national stakeholders to deliver visitor economy priorities.
As an LVEP, Visit Peak District, Derbyshire & Derby will be eligible to bid for Government funding streams to support the growth of the visitor economy, and the organisation will also be able to access additional support from VisitEngland including dedicated toolkits and training.
The keynote speech was delivered by VisitEngland Director Andrew Stokes OBE, who said: “I was delighted to attend the Visit Peak District, Derbyshire & Derby Tourism Conference and see first-hand the Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP) in action providing expert support and guidance to tourism businesses and hearing about the exciting and ambitious plans for growth.
“LVEPs are at the heart of transforming the visitor economy landscape in England, and we are delighted to be working with the Visit Peak District, Derbyshire & Derby LVEP on the national programme.”
During the conference, Visit Peak District, Derbyshire & Derby highlighted plans to support and grow the visitor economy in 2024, including:
An inspiring line-up of speakers covered topics including investment, regeneration, green tourism and the latest support and funding available for local businesses.
Diane Beresford, East Midlands Chamber, provided an overview of the Derbyshire Accelerator project which aims to help local businesses to start, sustain, grow and innovate; Cllr Paul Moss, Derbyshire County Council discussed the new East Midlands Mayoral Combined County Authority that will drive investment to the region; and Steve Capes, Derbyshire Dales District Council, showcased the exciting plans to transform Ashbourne town centre through the ‘Ashbourne Reborn’ project.
The importance of online visibility was highlighted by Will Wright of digital solutions experts DestinationCore, whilst the role of rail travel in supporting sustainable tourism in the destination was showcased by Gill Smith of Northern, England’s largest train operator outside of London.
Rob Gorton, Chair of Derby Destination Development Board and Senior Manager, Toyota Manufacturing UK, presented the inspiring vision to make Derby a vibrant place to live, work and visit; and Jamie Quince-Starkey, Founder of Down To Earth Derby CIC, discussed his ‘dream’ to make the city the eco-tourism focal point of the country through nature-based regeneration.
Jo Dilley, Managing Director of Visit Peak District & Derbyshire, said: “We’re proud to have combined our strengths to become the East Midlands’ first accredited Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP), and now the hard work must really begin to ensure our local tourism and hospitality businesses can unleash their potential and thrive for years to come.
“As the industry continues to face major challenges – such as rising costs and high inflation – never has collaboration been more important, and having LVEP status means we are working more closely with our neighbours across the region to build a strong, sustainable sector that works for all.
“Our visitor economy is integral not just to those who live, work and visit here, but for the fabric of our places and communities. That is why it is essential that we work together to showcase our diverse and vibrant tourism offer, and the brilliant and hardworking visitor economy businesses who provide memorable experiences for millions of visitors each year.”
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