Tourism ‘an important area of growth in next five years for Calderdale’

Tourist attractions in Calderdale
Tourist attractions in Calderdale

Tourism has seen “extraordinary” success in Calderdale in recent years, say council officials, with plans now in place to maximise this potential over the next five years.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet approved a new Tourism Strategy policy which will lead up to the borough’s 50th anniversary in 2024 with the conclusion that it is a major growth area.

Introducing the paper and outlining its importance, Cabinet member for Regeneration and Economic Strategy, Coun Barry Collins – at his last Cabinet meeting before standing down from the council in May – said Calderdale’s tourism assets could grow the economy further.

He said: “Tourism is one of Calderdale’s most extraordinary success stories. Tourism is worth almost £350m per year now to this area and that’s almost £100m more than 2010, it’s an amazing transformation in less than a decade.

“Tourism supports around 5,000 full-time equivalent jobs in the borough. Visitor spend has increased by five per cent between 2016 and 2017 alone. This is an enormously important potential further growth area for us.”

Coun Collins said this was the result of ambitious and inventive strategic planning, the latest plans bridging 2015 and now.

This was a period of time which had seen the emergence of Calderdale’s international visitor profile with the listing of the Calder Valley and Hebden Bridge in the National Geographic magazine’s World’s Top 19 “to go” destinations and the full opening of Halifax Piece Hall following refurbishment. 6.4 million tourist day trips made to the borough, Eureka! museum of childhood’s record 300,000 visitors and Rokt Face, Brighouse’s, opening Britain’s highest man-made climbing wall.

Three consecutive involvements in Tour De Yorkshire following Calderdale’s inclusion in the Tour De France also had a role to play and the economic development of festivals had been a success, with the council’s tourism and communications teams telling Calderdale’s story well and getting the message out not just regionally but nationally and internationally, said Coun Collins.

And despite difficulties that were being talked about, Welcome To Yorkshire had an enormous effect on tourism in the county, not least in Calderdale, he said.

Now it was time to move on to a refreshed tourism strategy that would run from now to 2024, the borough’s 50th anniversary.

“Our aim in the next five years will be to further strengthen Calderdale’s position in the national and international tourism trade.

“It has three main priorities – to develop Calderdale within the strong Yorkshire brand ensuring our own distinctive look on a narrative clear and consistent, growing our tourism centre and providing effective support for enterprising businesses to grow, and moving towards establishing a very, very important place in culture at the heart of place-making in Calderdale,” he said.

A whole series of proposals outlined in the policy would enable to develop Calderdale’s distinctive brand and it was hope it could be done within existing council budgets, seeking funding where it was available, for example a bid had already been made to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund to develop the visitor economy.

A key element going forward would be the creation of multi-agency delivery groups to realise the plan, said Coun Collins.

Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said this was good news, talking the borough up, not talking it down. She was particularly pleased to see reference to “experience-driven high streets” in the report because as retail shopping changed under online pressure people wanted something more to enhance their shopping apperance.

“People want ‘shopping and…’,” she said, whether that was street theatre or something distinctive about a place – the strategy recognised that cultural and outdoor experiences strengthened the retail sector at the moment.

“We really need to build on that and further strengthen it,” she said.

Coun Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden) said the strategy recognised the strengths and distinctions right across the borough.