Mayors unite to inspire visits from China, India and Gulf

The UK’s three largest cities – London, Manchester and Birmingham – have created an alliance to attract tourists from the world’s fastest-growing markets.

Called Experience England, the project will woo travellers from China, India and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries and encourage them to travel across different English regions.

Led by London & Partners, the Mayor of London’s official promotional agency, the scheme is backed by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan (pictured right); the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham (left); and the mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street (centre).

It is financed by a £1.2 million grant from the government’s £40 million Discover England Fund.

Khan said: “London is home to the 10 most popular tourist attractions in the UK and we’re proud to welcome millions of visitors every year. But it’s important that they have the chance to see what’s on offer in other parts of the country too and I’m committed to working with other cities and regions to use the capital’s reputation to drive tourism across the nation.”

Street commented: “The West Midlands attracted some 2.2 million international visits in 2016, and was the English region to see the greatest growth in international visitors last year. Not only does the West Midlands boast a vibrant retail offer, Michelin-starred restaurants and world-class cultural gems, it’s also an essential gateway to the heart of England and its countryside, and is a stone’s throw from the capital city.”

Burnham added: “Greater Manchester is not only a vibrant, exciting region but it is also a gateway to explore the north of England, including places such as the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District, the Peak District and so much more. With increasing interest from international visitors, now is the ideal time to work together to create compelling itineraries that showcase the breadth and diversity of the entire country, starting or ending in our three biggest cities.”

Sally Balcombe, chief executive at VisitBritain/VisitEngland, said: “It’s great to see the innovative way this project is getting visitors exploring the country, and twin-centre holidays will make more of England accessible.”

In 2016, almost 1.5 million visitors arrived in the UK from China, India and GCC countries, which include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to data from VisitBritain.

Research by London & Partners shows that fewer than a third of visitors staying overnight in the capital move on to stay overnight elsewhere in England – yet the same research shows that levels of satisfaction increase significantly when people do visit other destinations.

• Birmingham Hall Green MP Roger Godsiff has tabled an Early Day Motion calling for a new visa deal between the UK and India.

The EDM says “simplifying the visitor visa application process to make it easier and more attractive for people from India to visit the UK is a crucial part of developing this bilateral relationship; and urges the government to support the Royal Commonwealth Society’s campaign to have the special UK-China bilateral visitor visa pilot extended to India, to boost tourism and trade and support diplomatic relations”.