The profile of Yorkshire has never been higher. World class hospitality, stunning destinations and the hosting of major international events are helping to keep visitors flocking.
Yorkshire is going from strength to strength, with latest figures showing that county welcomed a record breaking number of international visitors during the first half of 2018, outperforming all other regions in England. Compared to the same period in 2017, an 8% increase of 647,000 international visitors came to Yorkshire between January and June 2018. Spend also increased during the first half of the 2018, by 1% (Source: VisitBritain).
2019 is set to be another hugely successful year for tourism in Yorkshire, with the fifth edition of the Tour de Yorkshire and the UCI Road World Championships, which will be hosted in Yorkshire for nine days in September and all set to be the biggest free sporting event that Britain has even seen! These two events alone are two incredible opportunities for Yorkshire to be showcased to the world and continue to attract international visitors.
Last year’s Tour de Yorkshire boosted the county’s economy by a massive £98 million, according to an economic impact study, conducted by independent research company GRASP and compiled by Leeds Beckett University. A record 2.6 million spectators lined the route over the four days and overall spend was up 54% on 2017 to £97,973,806. Accommodation spend also increased 49% year on year and non-accommodation items such as food and drink, souvenirs and transport were up by 58%.
The events don’t stop there for Yorkshire. VisitBritain’s flagship annual travel trade event, ExploreGB will be held at Harrogate Convention Centre on 8th – 10th May, where hundreds of international buyers from countries across the globe will meet to do business meeting travel trade suppliers from the UK. BBC Countryfile Live is taking place in the north for the very first time at the iconic Castle Howard too. The four-day event, taking place 15th until 18th August, will celebrate regional farming and showcase the very best of the northern countryside.
Also new for 2019, Yorkshire Sculpture International is the UK’s largest event celebrating sculpture, taking place 22nd June until 29th September. Free and open to all, it’s being produced by the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle, a unique consortium comprising the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Art Gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The event will feature work by world-renowned artists staged across the four venues and major new outdoor sculpture commissions across public spaces in Leeds and Wakefield, inviting visitors to interact with art in unexpected places in the cities.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, Welcome to Yorkshire itself hosts two major annual corporate events – a tourism conference, Y19, and the White Rose Awards, both of which are the biggest of their kind in the UK. The annual Y19 conference will be held at the Royal Armouries in Leeds this year. Attracting over 1,000 guests, the event will take centre stage on 3rd April, 10 years to the day that Welcome to Yorkshire was launched at the same venue.
The White Rose Awards honoured the very best of Yorkshire’s tourism businesses at Harrogate Convention Centre in November, where more than 1,000 guests, including sporting heroes and stars of the stage and screen were in attendance. The annual event will once again take place in November, with the venue still to be confirmed.
Investment in facilities continues across Yorkshire this year too. Nestled in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales between Ripon and Harrogate, a stone’s throw away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site Fountains Abbey, is Grantley Hall, a stunning five-star luxury country resort hotel and spa due open in spring – with innovative facilities creating the extraordinary and delivering the exceptional.
And one of Harrogate’s landmark buildings, a palatial and stately Victorian property known as The Majestic Hotel in Harrogate, will be reopened as DoubleTree by Hilton in August. It’s not the only new DoubleTree Hilton in the county, with the Hull hotel opening last year.
Guests can stay at the new four-star venue when visiting the new Bonus Arena – which includes a 3,500-capacity concert auditorium with the flexibility to reduce to 2,900 seated, 1,400 sqm of exhibition space, and an 800-capacity conference auditorium. Operated by SMG Europe, the new £36 million venue was part of Hull City Council’s £250 million UK City of Culture legacy plan to invest in culture and the arts and provides the city with valuable conference and exhibition space.
A major fundraising campaign, Music Works, was launched by Opera North in 2018 to enable a significant capital redevelopment project throughout 2019 and 2020. Its transformed buildings will be a home for developing talent, supporting world-class artists and inspiring audiences, and will cement Opera North as a modern business and a creative powerhouse in the heart of Leeds.
A multimillion-pound redevelopment of the former West Yorkshire Playhouse is also underway. Now known as the Leeds Playhouse – and one of the north’s leading producing theatres – the new building will open in autumn 2019. The new theatre will have an entrance that faces the city and will be able to generate more of its own income, reduce costs and cut its impact on the environment.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s £3.6 million visitor centre will open in March – and will be known as The Weston as a result of significant support from family grant-maker The Garfield Weston Foundation. The Weston will increase the capacity of the museum and gallery which was visited by more than 480,000 people during 2017, its 40th anniversary year. Also in South Yorkshire, the brand-new Cutlery Works has opened in the city centre. The Grade II listed former Rutland Cutlery Co. has been transformed to make Cutlery Works the largest independent food hall in northern England, offering street food, cocktails and table service from a number of independent gourmet food vendors.