A major new strategy to develop tourism and the visitor economy across the region has been launched by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.
The Marches LEP Visitor Economy Strategy calls for a new partnership approach to promoting Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire to develop a thriving, sustainable and enhanced tourism sector which will lead to increased numbers of visitors and new jobs and opportunities.
LEP chair Mandy Thorn said developing a flourishing tourism economy was crucial to the overall long-term economic health of the region.
“A thriving tourism sector is a vital strand in the overall ambition we have to make this region the best place to live, work and play in the whole of the UK,” she told the Marches Tourism Forum at the strategy’s launch in Hereford.
“The strategy we are launching is a start in plotting a course to achieving that goal. We are setting the region a number of key goals to develop a thriving, sustainable and uniquely local tourism offer.”
Mrs Thorn said key measures outlined in the strategy included bringing local authorities and the tourism industry together to work in partnership to promote the region as a whole, marketing the Marches as a prime destination for ‘Independent Explorers’ and developing Telford’s role as a business conference and events centre.
Current figures showed the Marches performing below the national average across a range of tourism indicators and a co-ordinated approach was now needed promote the region, Mrs Thorn said.
“Our strategy calls for a new era of partnership working both between the three local authorities but also the tourism industry on the ground.
“We believe there is a clear need for strategic leadership in this area which could be provided by a new partnership responsible for the co-ordination and delivery of destination marketing & promotion, research and market intelligence, destination management and the co-ordination of business tourism.”
The strategy also calls for the region to target couples, families and groups aged from their late 20s to 40s – the so-called Independent Explorers – in a golden arc from Liverpool to Manchester through Birmingham and south to Cardiff.
“Targeting this segment will open up an influential new market which will support the repositioning of the Marches without discouraging the existing market. It will also contribute to the all-important reduction of our carbon footprint and help us establish a truly sustainable visitor economy for the region,” Mrs Thorn added.