Liverpool city has leapt from the 16th to sixth position in the rankings of most visited UK cities by international visitors (International Passenger Survey data 2006) - a result of the high profile the city has already achieved in the run up to its term as European Capital of Culture this year.
It was this year named by lastminute.com as its second most popular city break destination after London. Using the European Capital of Culture 2008 as a catalyst, a $6.5 billion regeneration programme is transforming the city, with a massive retail and leisure development, a new cruise liner facility and a new events venue. The $300 million 10,600 seat indoor Echo Arena - for anything from rock concerts to indoor sports -have a prime location on Liverpool’s World Heritage waterfront.
The complex opened for the official start of the Year of Culture, and contains a convention centre with 1,350 seats and a 3,725 square metre multi purpose hall, plus 18 more meeting rooms. Liverpool calculates that the arena and convention centre will inject $200 million into the economy during 2008 alone.
New hotels are boosting the city’s hotel count of some 4,000 rooms, including a new Jurys Inn which opened in April next to the Echo Area. Malmaison and Radisson SAS have also opened recently in the city, but a management spokesperson at the BT Convention Centre is
already booking larger conferences for the next few years, and says that more hotel space will be needed in the city.
Liverpool has direct air links to destinations in Ireland, Spain, France, and also to Amsterdam and Brussels. Provisional figures show that
John Lennon Airport handled 5.5 million passengers in 2007 – a 10.1 per cent increase over 2006 and substantially above the UK average (estimated at +2.4 per cent in 2007).
Liverpool hopes to attract 20 million visitors (domestic and international) during 2008, with a programme that includes hundreds of events and many top international performers, artists and architects, and major international sports events.
Highlights include a major exhibition of the work of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt at Tate Liverpool (it opens end May), a televised ‘Liverpool Sound’ concert to be broadcast around the world from a specially constructed outdoor stage on the waterfront this month; a concert from Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (September); an exhibition on the architectural work of Le Corbusier (from October), and the Shipping Lines Literary Festival, with big names that include this years’ Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing (November).
Sporting events include the Tour of Britain cycle race which will finish in Liverpool instead of its normal finish in London (September); the start of Tall Ships Races and the return of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race (July); the Open Golf Championship at Royal Birkdale (July) and the Honda F4 Powerboat Grand Prix (September).
VisitBritain, in partnership with the British Council, created the new online youth community for the UAE called ‘GB4U’ (Great Britain For You), after research they commissioned revealed that young people in the UAE have relatively limited perceptions of the UK.
GB4U is a new online community (registration is free) offering information on travel, work, study and contemporary culture in the UK for its young members; As well as information, members get a quarterly e-newsletter, special offers, and a chance to win monthly prizes of CDs and DVDs.
According to original research by VisitBritain and the British Council in the UAE, young Emiratis still associate the UK closely with tradition – HM the Queen, Shakespeare, history and heritage – and most strongly with London. The GB4U online community and campaign aims to update the traditional perceptions of the UK to reflect the modern, creative multicultural society that is the UK in the 21st century.
Carol Maddison, VisitBritain regional marketing manager, said, “The UK is a very popular destination amongst Emiratis and we know from our research that young Emiratis feel that they know the UK and this sense of familiarity is a positive factor. However, further questions reveal that many of these perceptions are clearly outdated and are based on the immense wealth of history and tradition in the UK – and the dominance of London within the UK. We are aiming for GB4U to be the most trusted source of information about the UK for young Emiratis and to broaden and deepen their knowledge of the UK, beyond London and beyond tradition, and ultimately hope to encourage more young people from this region to visit the UK. The initial response to the site has been very positive.”