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Growing reputation for leisure tourism.

Birmingham is building on its credentials as a business destination with a growing leisure tourism offering.

The city already attracts more conferences than any other outside of London, while also welcoming an increase in visitors to Birmingham, with an additional 154,000 visitors in 2010 compared to the previous year.

Those figures have underlined a steady growth in Birmingham's visitor economy, with visitor numbers rising by 13% from 29.1 million to 32.8 million in the last five years. The visitor economy is worth an estimated pounds 4.6 billion to the local economy, a figure supported by national statistics which highlight tourism as the fifth biggest industry in the UK.

Birmingham is already a leader in business tourism, thanks mainly to the city's unrivalled connectivity and transport networks, in addition to worldleading exhibition, conference and event facilities, including The NEC, The ICC, The LG Arena and the NIA. The NEC remains the UK's largest and one of Europe's busiest exhibition and conference venues, welcoming more than 2.1 million visitors every year.

The city's continued success as a conference and events venue has also helped to drive Birmingham's popularity not only for midweek stays, but also for weekend visitors. Hotel occupancy for November 2011 rose to 74% - the highest figure since October 2007 - while occupancy on Saturdays during November reached an incredible 92%.

As well as the 30,000 bed spaces already available to visitors to Birmingham and the wider region, there are an additional 27 hotels currently at various stages in planning and construction.

The new development activity demonstrates the confidence investors have in both this sector and Birmingham itself as a vital leisure and business destination.

Ian Taylor is Commercial Director for Marketing Birmingham, which runs the 'Meet Birmingham' and 'Visit Birmingham' marketing programmes. He said: "There is no underestimating the value of the visitor economy to Birmingham, in terms of both business and leisure tourism.

"In the last five years alone, the strength of the city's visitor economy has contributed an additional 21,220 jobs to the local area, as well as bringing in an extra pounds 2 billion in economic impact.

We have worked extremely hard in promoting the city as a visitor destination and we are now reaping the rewards for that, in terms of visitor numbers, overall spend and job creation.

"We believe that we have a very strong proposition for all visitors to the city, which can only be strengthened by the HS2 rail link, the redevelopment of New Street Station and the fact that Birmingham Airport has the capability to accommodate an additional nine million passengers."

In addition to the many hotels in the pipeline, Birmingham's boom in the visitor economy has also led to fresh investment for redevelopment in the city, with Australian company the StayWell Group and its investment arm Seven Capital applying to convert the derelict Auchinleck House office block into a four-star hotel and conference centre, in addition to revamping the run-down Edgbaston Five Ways shopping complex as part of an ambitious pounds 100 million project.

The proposal has been made possible partly through the Government's Business Premises Renovation Allowance (BPRA), which offers tax breaks to developments that re-use empty buildings.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Feb 23, 2012
Words:553
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