What can be done to better promote Sheffield as a tourist destination?

From stunning scenery to top theatres, great music and a thriving food and drink scene, there’s plenty to attract visitors to Sheffield.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 23 July, 2019, 10:26

But what can be done to better promote the city as a tourist destination?

That’s the question we posed to three people in the know, and here’s what they had to say.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, director of city and culture, University of Sheffield

Pictured is Wendy Ulyett with one of the works. Picture: Chris Etchells

As someone from the seaside who spent my formative years on the sunny shores of Morecambe and Blackpool, tourism was and is the economy that marked my hometowns.

As an academic specialising in heritage and cultural regeneration my views on what makes a tourist destination brings together years of practice as a producer but also an inbuilt radar from growing up in a resort where visitors are the main economy.

So the question of what can be done to make Sheffield better promote itself is twofold.

Professor Vanessa Toulmin, director of city and culture, University of Sheffield

Firstly, the city has to see itself through the eyes of the visitor and secondly, it must also believe that the jewels we regularly enjoy can and should be shared.

Sheffield has great strengths that would appeal to city break visitors, a wonderful offer in terms of green spaces, cultural assets, magnificent museums and of course our world class theatres.

But in order to maximise those attractions there has to be a joined-up approach and one that is starting to happen through partnership and bringing limited resources together for the good of the many and for the city.

A recent example of this was the Mausoleum of the Giants – the large-scale installation produced by the University of Sheffield in association with Marketing Sheffield with the support of ACE funding and the Culture Consortium.

Wendy Ullyett, visitor economy manager, Marketing Sheffield

We realised that the Giants could be a means of maximising the visitor economy alongside showing how we as a city make great art and culture. Cross promotion of the more niche events in the city sat alongside the wider publicity of the Giants.

So highlight the great assets we have, promote them more through partnership but more importantly install in the people of Sheffield the message that it is really fantastic here in Sheffield.

No more hiding our light under a bushel but proclaim to friends, family and strangers we want you to come and see for yourself – let the people of Sheffield be the ambassadors for the city they love as there is nowhere in the country where the love of the city shines through like a stick of seaside rock!

Alexis Krachai, chairman of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce's Visitor Economy Forum

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Alexis Krachai, chairman of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce's Visitor Economy Forum

In Sheffield we like to call a spade a spade. We do not like brash. We do not like bold. We are quietly confident and like to surprise people. Believe it or not, these are useful qualities needed to attract tourists. If tourists are surprised by their visit and have an amazing time you can expect two things. Firstly, they will likely come back. Secondly, they will likely tell their friends and family.

Sheffield is growing more popular as a tourist destination. We are no longer the UK’s best kept secret for a city break. Our amazing scenery, combined with culture that makes you think, and a great night out means we are fast becoming the city to visit.

We must carry on doing more of the same. Letting people know about adrenaline-filled weekends in the Peak District. Telling people about the amazing independent food and drink they can enjoy across the city. Hosting more special events like Phlegm’s Mausoleum of the Giants that attracted people from around the world. Events that saw over 100,000 people see drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci that were on display at the same time. Events like Tramlines that rock the city every year or Peddler Night Market every month.

Staycations in the UK are becoming more popular. People are thinking more about their carbon footprints and choosing to not fly. There is a lot happening in the world of travel that can be good for Sheffield.

What can we do to maintain momentum? Perhaps we can be a little bolder? Perhaps we can be a little brasher? Here’s one idea. A massive advert at St Pancras Station. Thirty four million people enter or exit that station a year. We should let more of them know that two hours away is a city that is full of surprises. They should come for a visit.

Wendy Ulyett, visitor economy manager at Marketing Sheffield, the council’s destination marketing arm

Professor Vanessa Toulmin at the Mausoleum of the Giants exhibition in Sheffield

It’s important to understand there’s a lot being done already but Sheffield people are unlikely to see it, as its happening outside of the city (seeing as that’s where our tourist audience is!).

The most recent research shows there were more than 19 million tourist visits to Sheffield in 2017; tourists spent more than £1.2 billion in the city and Sheffield’s tourism sector supports over 14,500 jobs. That’s not

insignificant.

We have to use what is distinctive about Sheffield and create easy to find, easy to book experiences. This is something we’ve been collaborating on recently, particularly with some of the city’s independent

businesses, and which is delivering results, particularly with international journalists and influencers that we’ve hosted in the last few months.

This is not a city which hangs its hat on a single key attraction or asset. That means we have flexibility in drawing together a number of things, specific to different audiences, using key assets that are part of our story; key events that provide profile; and an incredible range of independent food, drink and experience providers that make Sheffield distinctive.

The way forward is definitely not to suggest ‘we have something for everyone’. That doesn’t make Sheffield distinctive at all.

Visitor expectations are changing. Visitors take it as read they’ll find a combination of accommodation, transport and high street retail. Every destination has these assets to one extent or another and it’s not what draws people to a destination. Local perception of what is lacking is not the same as that of visitors.

We need to identify and invest in our target audiences and build sustained campaigns to reach them; to understand the unknown consequences of Brexit and capitalise on the enormous opportunity in emerging and long haul markets such as China and the US. And we need to do it together.