A major event to breathe new life into Herefordshire’s tourism industry is to be staged in the new year.
The 2020 Marches Tourism Forum will bring together a high-profile team of experts at Hereford’s Green Dragon Hotel on January 21 to create a new tourism agenda for the region.
The hotel team is collaborating with Eat Sleep Live Herefordshire – Herefordshire’s official destination marketing organisation – and Rural Media in Hereford to host the event, which gets under way at 9.30am.
Businesses across the region interested in taking part are now being urged to save the date.
The Forum will bring together a team of speakers including Katrina Michel, former CEO of Visit Cheshire, Martin Orbach, the founder of Abergavenny Food Festival, Lyndy Cooke, managing director of Hay Festival for 15 years, Malcolm Bell, CEO of Visit Cornwall and Nic Millington from Rural Media.
The event will aim to encourage cross-border collaboration, bringing together strategic individuals, businesses and organisations in the private and public sector from across the Marches.
As well as drawing inspiration from the main speakers, attendees will workshop ideas with the aim of creating a new agenda for regional tourism in 2020 and beyond.
Heidi Chamberlain-Jones, from ESL, said: "It is great that a growing number of stakeholders in this region are waking up to the reality that an attractive visitor destination is critical to its economic sustainability and success.
"Change can only occur when we get people talking and working together, and we hope this event will stimulate conversations, working relationships and new ideas."
Christian Dangerfield, from the Green Dragon, added: "We know that Brexit may impact some of our most crucial economic areas, such as agriculture, and we need to ensure that tourism contributes more to the local economy.
"Herefordshire alone currently attracts around 5 million visitors a year. I’d like to see us double that number in the next decade but it will require a great deal of aspiration, inspiration, perspiration and, most importantly, collaboration to make that happen. We urgently need more significant discussion to develop a short, medium and long-term strategy which will deliver tangible economic benefits for the region.
"The average expenditure of day visitors to the Marches is around £23 per head, compared to a national average of around £35. If we could close that gap, it would add several hundred million pounds a year to the region’s economy – and that’s before we add to the actual number of visitors. We really need to start joining some dots."