ALMOST 3BN: Fall in city region’s tourist income
Woodside Ferry Village in Birkenhead
Our region’s tourism sector lost almost £3bn last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a meeting heard tonight.
Wirral Council’s Tourism and Leisure Committee was told by Sally Shah, the authority’s chief regeneration officer, that the so-called ‘visitor economy’ in the Liverpool City Region, of which Wirral is part, was worth £4.9bn in 2019.
However, in 2020 it was worth just £2.1bn due to the enormous impact of coronavirus.
As well as Wirral, the city region includes Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens and Halton.
But tonight’s meeting focused on plans for Birkenhead, which could make the town a more attractive place to visit and live in the future.
A major part of this effort will be the massive regeneration plans for the town, which include a new Birkenhead Market, hundreds of homes and new food and drink outlets.
As well as this, the council hopes projects such as Eureka! Mersey, which is set to open next year, and the £19.6m scheme to upgrade the area around Woodside Ferry Terminal, will encourage people to visit the area.
The Woodside scheme, which is being funded with money from the government’s Levelling Up Fund, will see the U-Boat Story attraction improved, the ageing ferry landing stage replaced and much else besides.
Liberal Democrat councillor Allan Brame noted the major cuts the council had suffered in recent years, saying this left the council as merely an enabler, rather than a provider, of cultural services.
But he stressed the “passion and enthusiasm” for cultural life in Wirral, which was shown by the fact that more than 1,000 people had attended the recent Oxton Art Fair at the Williamson Art Gallery.
He was, however, concerned about how the council would be able to drive things forward in the future with such limited resources.
Jane Morgan, Wirral Council’s senior culture strategy manager, said the council is looking to lever in sponsorship and can use the big regeneration plans in Birkenhead to help it gain funding from the Arts Council and other groups for cultural and heritage projects.
While she insisted there were no guarantees, Ms Morgan said Wirral Council was in a good place to lever in resources.
Labour councillor Christine Spriggs acknowledged the difficult time cultural services have had during the pandemic, but noted that 30,000 people came to the Wirral Food and Drink Festival in one weekend in 2019.
For Cllr Spriggs, this meant that while challenges remain, the borough did have the potential to get through them.
Cllr Helen Cameron, a Conservative who chairs the committee, noted the importance that creatives, such as artists, can have in regeneration projects.
She used the example of Shoreditch in London, saying that in that area regeneration was led by creatives first, with other things following afterwards.
Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter
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