The new drive to put Bradford on the tourist trail

Sarah Howsen, senior tourism development officer for Bradford Council; Charalene Lee, chairman of Destination Bradford; Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe; and Tricia Tillotson Bradford Council’s tourism manager, at Bingley’s Five Rise Locks

Sarah Howsen, senior tourism development officer for Bradford Council; Charalene Lee, chairman of Destination Bradford; Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe; and Tricia Tillotson Bradford Council’s tourism manager, at Bingley’s Five Rise Locks

First published in News Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , T&A Reporter

This week rail travellers across West Yorkshire will be able to see the best of Bradford as they wait for their trains.

As they stand on the platforms they will be able to see the city’s key attractions: City Park, Little Germany, the Alhambra and a host of other gems.

Designed to entice people to discover their local area, the posters – part of a campaign by Bradford Council’s tourism hub Visit Bradford and the Destination Bradford hotel partnership – will also alert people to special offers which could help them save on days out.

In July, similar posters, this time bearing images of the jewels in the district’s crown, will be displayed further afield, targeting travellers across North-East England and the Midlands, encouraging them to come and stay overnight in Bradford. Special offers linked to hotels will be included.

“We are trying to grab people’s attention,” says Tricia Tillotson, tourism manager for Bradford Council. “We want people to look and ask themselves ‘Is that in Bradford?’ Then, hopefully, they will go to our website and explore further.”

Despite the recession, the past few years have been rosy for tourism in the district. Over the last three years there has been a 14 per cent increase in expenditure from visitors. Says Tricia: “That is really exciting considering it has been the worst years economy-wise. That we have experienced such growth is fantastic.”

In the year to April 2014, the Visit Bradford website recorded more than 617,000 unique visits – individual users who visit web pages – the equivalent of 3.3 million page views. This is up 34 per cent from the previous 12 months. Last month alone there was more than 826,000 unique visits.

The last available figures for overnight stays in the district, in 2012, is 753,000, with 11 million taking day trips to the area.

In summer, a fresh, new-look website will be launched, with improved navigation and ease of use. The website will for the first time be fully responsive wherever users may be and whatever gadgets they are using.

“At present it is just a desktop website,” says Sarah Howson, the Council’s senior tourism development officer. “This new, dynamic design will be accessible from tablets or mobiles, so people can look at it when they are out and about. The information will be live and constantly updated.

“People will be able to look up events, find somewhere they would like to eat, and look at all the attractions in the district. They no longer have to be sitting at a computer, they will be able to sit in City Park, for instance, and use the free WiFi to see where to go.”

Adds Tricia: “This will improve a visitor’s experience and encourage people to stay longer.” The website will feature special offers for restaurants.

The past year saw Visit Bradford’s Facebook and Twitter accounts become fully operational. Facebook drew 3,529 likes and more than 5,000 people follow the Twitter account. “This is another exciting development for us,” says Tricia.

Last month, Visit Bradford began working with the national tourism body VisitEngland on its More Cities campaign.

“These high-profile campaigns focus on themes – last year it was rural and this year it is cities and culture,” says Tricia. “We are getting enquiries from journalists from across the country who are interested in visiting the district.”

A main draw is the Unesco City of Film status awarded to Bradford. Visitors can see for themselves locations at which dramas and films have been shot.

Add to this culinary accolades, including the Curry Capital of Britain, which Bradford has won three times in a row, the English Curry Lover Of The Year award, and a forthcoming appearance on Heston Blumenthal’s Great British Food Programme, and the appeal notches up.

Visit Bradford aims to build on the visitor numbers generated by the Tour de France, which will brings thousands into the district.

“Visit Bradford offices will sell official Tour de France clothing. We will have brown signs along the route for people to follow,” says Tricia, “So many people will come, it will be a chance to showcase the district. Part of the race’s legacy will be to bring people back afterwards.”

City Park has already made its mark, and the much-anticipated Westfield shopping centre will, says Tricia, “greatly enhance our city break offers.”

The location of Visit Bradford’s information centre, in between City Park and Westfield, will bring in more people. “Westfield is a really strong brand – it will make a massive difference to expenditure,” says Tricia.

“We are really getting ourselves on the map and starting to be proud of what we have got. We would like that to continue.”

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