Bradford district may not be on the tip of people’s tongues as a tourist hotspot, yet the area contains some of the most visited ‘hotspots’ in the UK and the numbers descending on them are increasing every year.

The value of tourism to the district’s economy stands at more than £500 million a year, with an estimated 8.6 million day trips within the district. The impact of this is more than 13,500 jobs supported by the tourism and retail sector.

“Tourism is of crucial importance to the district – Bradford has some of the most wonderful attractions,” says tourism manager with Bradford Council Tricia Tillotson. “We have four hotpsots – Haworth, Ilkley, Saltaire and Bradford itself.”

Born and raised in the district, Tricia is passionate about the area, a love that shines through as she reels off the key attractions that draw visitors from across the globe.

The Brontes, Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, Ilkley’s Cow and Calf Rocks, White Wells, Bradford’s National Media Museum, Cartwright Hall, Little Germany, Saltaire village, Salts Mill – being a snapshot of the many places that pull in visitors.

Haworth attracts many Japanese tourists, explains Tricia.

“Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights form part of the school curriculum in Japan, so it is the ambition of many people to visit Haworth and the moors.”

Embracing and furthering the boom in toursim across the district has led to a number of new initiatives, including the opening of a Visitor Information Centre (VIC) in Saltaire. “It is really exciting,” says Tricia. “It is in Sir Titus Salt’s old boardroom in Salts Mill. It will encourage visitors to the village, and to visit the rest of the district, plus it will prompt day visitors to re-visit, perhaps for a weekend.”

Bradford’s VIC will be relocating to a new city centre site.

Tricia said: “It is in a temporary location at present. We will be re-launching with a new one and hope to expand.”

The district’s four VICs – they are also open in Haworth and Ilkley – are five per cent up on visitor numbers against last year, and the Visit Bradford tourism website received well over 700,000 in 2010.

A special ‘visit Bronte country’ website will be launched later in the year.

The tourism service works closely with schools. “We encourage the children to try and get their parents to take them to different places,” says Tricia.

A scheme is in place which records whether parents subsequently go to a visitor information centre.

“We give them a slip of paper to hand in, and they can claim a free pencil – we have had a good response, so we know the scheme is working.”

And schoolchildren have helped to translate information about attractions into different languages for a visitor website.

“It makes them look at how people who don’t live here would see places,” says Tricia. “As a local, you don’t often appreciate what is on your doorstep and people often don’t think of their own city as a tourist destination. But as you start to talk to them about it, the penny drops. We give them ideas as to where to go.There are many walks you can do as a family, and the wonderful thing about Bradford is that the museums are free.”

And, Tricia adds: “We are lucky to have two UNESCO accreditations; City of Film – Bradford was the world’s first – and Saltaire’s World Heritage Site.”

As chairman of the visit board of UNESCO City of Film, Tricia is well-placed to help make the most of the accolade in bringing visitors to the area.

“We are working with those with interests in the tourism sector, to push and promote the district. For instance we will promote the movie map which pinpoints locations and look at other initiatives such as a film trail map are in the pipleine.”

Annual events such as the Bradford Mela, Ilkley Literature Festival, Haworth’s 1940s weekend, Saltaire Festival and special Christmas events take place across the district.

Bradford’s curries are also on the agenda to give people a taste, literally, of the district. “We are currently curry capital of England, and are defending that this year – local people can get involved in that – and we are also going for the curry capital of Britain title,” says Tricia.

The tourism partnership Destination Bradford, which links the Council with business and leisure provider, is also pulling in visitors, and showcasing what the district has to offer at events such as county shows.

“Bradford district has so much to offer – we want to encourage people to see it and enjoy it for themselves.”