A new era for Lancashire tourism has begun with a conference hosted by the newly-formed Lancashire LVEP.
The ability to act as a LVEP (Local Visitor Economy Partnership) is bestowed by Visit England and was granted to Lancashire in November.
The designation will see the county play a greater role in national and local policy, strategy, decision-making and will see the LVEP lead on bids for national funding opportunities to benefit the county.
All of this was brought into sharp focus by the first ever Partners’ Tourism Conference, hosted by Marketing Lancashire and VisitBlackpool.
The event, held at Ribby Hall, began with speeches from Lancashire County Councillor Peter Buckley and Andy Walker, head of business growth and innovation at Lancashire County Council, who outlined the current Devolution plan for Lancashire, the important role of the visitor economy and the significance of the new LVEP status.
Andy Walker said: “We understand the importance of the tourism sector. The devolution deal incorporates this, with themes including how we support tourism businesses and where we invest.
"For example, to ensure that the transport function can assist the tourism sector so that people can get to attractions. It is about new jobs, new sectors, new opportunities, and giving young people routes into careers in tourism, hospitality and leisure. It’s about boosting business across the region.”
Vikki Harris, Marketing and Partnership Director of Marketing Lancashire gave a presentation on the benefits of being an LVEP; the national and international opportunities to market Lancashire, more access to research and insights, as well as training and toolkits that will help businesses become more sustainable and accessible.
Vikki Harris said: “Securing LVEP status is fantastic news for Lancashire. Marketing Lancashire and VisitBlackpool are trailblazers for the new structure, helping shape and define what an LVEP is and we’re looking forward to making the most of the many opportunities that being an LVEP unlocks.
“We are right at the start of the LVEP journey and tourism businesses across Lancashire will be invited to participate in helping to shape activities in key areas that have been outlined in the county’s Tourism Growth Strategy.
“Our vision is to grow a visitor economy in Lancashire that provides exceptional and distinctive attractions and experiences that transform people’s perceptions of Lancashire.”
Vikki went on to highlight major developments such as Eden North in Morecambe, Showtown in Blackpool, the re-imagined Harris in Preston, town deals and market developments across the county, that will all help reach the target of growing the Lancashire visitor economy to pre-Covid levels by 2027.
Recent STEAM figures, issued by Marketing Lancashire, show the county is recovering well from the impact of the Covid pandemic, with visitor numbers at 94 per cent and economic impact at 95 per cent of pre-Covid levels.
Other guest speakers, introduced by BBC Radio Lancashire’s Mike Stevens included: Nick Gerrard, growth and prosperity programme director of Blackpool Council; Liz Moss, chief executive of the new museum of entertainment Showtown, opening in Blackpool in March; Alex Young from fast growing Stanley Villa Farm; Rick Parkinson from Blackpool and the Fylde College; Celia Gaze from The Wellbeing Farm and Ian Steele of Atkinson’s Coffee who discussed the importance of sustainability.
More than 100 people from tourism and leisure businesses attended and also enjoyed a Taste Lancashire experience with some of Lancashire’s finest food and drink producers providing delicious samples. These included: Brindle Distillery Cuckoo Gin (Brindle), Farm Yard Brew Company (Lancaster), Good Intent Gifts (Leyland), Lucela’s premium spirits (Bispham), Mrs Dowson’s (Blackburn), Pudalicious (Poulton-Le-Fylde), The Bee Centre (Brindle) and Three Wheeled Gin (Morecambe).
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