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Birmingham and Solihull tourism industry to be put in ‘driving seat’ in efforts to boost growth

Birmingham and Solihull could be home to one of the UK’s first tourism business improvement districts (TBID) if plans for a new private sector led approach to marketing the area’s visitor offer are agreed by local hotels.

Plans drawn up by representatives of the area’s visitor economy and Marketing Birmingham propose a new means of deciding how to promote and fund the area’s visitor offer.

Birmingham and Solihull attracted a record 39 million visitors in 2012, boosting the local economy by £5.9 billion. The area’s strong visitor economy has the potential for further growth with significant investment in its transport connectivity and leisure offer expected in the coming years.

Promotion of the area’s visitor offer has previously been provided by Marketing Birmingham, which is funded in large part by Birmingham City Council and the European Regional Development Fund. However, with growing constraints on public sector finances, new ways to fund the promotion of the area’s visitor offer are being pursued.

Michael Mason, General Manager of the Crowne Plaza Birmingham City Centre hotel and Chairman of the Midlands Association of Restaurants, Caterers, Hotels & Entertainment (MARCHE) said: “A tourism BID would provide a real opportunity for local businesses to take a bigger role in shaping the future of the sector. Greater Birmingham has always been an innovator and this current tough environment gives us an opportunity to once again demonstrate leadership to the UK’s tourism sector and create our own innovative model for delivering success.”  

A TBID is a group of businesses in the tourism sector who have agreed, through a formal ballot process, to pay a levy, determined by an agreed formula, to an approved delivery body to promote and develop their local tourism offer.  

The proposed Birmingham and Solihull TBID would focus on increasing the number of overnight guests in local hotels, raising the value of daily room rates in line with demand and boosting the value of the area’s visitor economy overall. The TBID would also work to raise awareness of the area as a tourist destination in key markets.  

It would be governed by a Board of levy payers and industry representatives, who would oversee the delivery of a defined programme of activity by Marketing Birmingham.  

Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham Airport and Chair of Marketing Birmingham, added:   “Our tourism sector has seen great successes but we know that our hotel occupancy, room rates and utilisation continue to provide challenges for local hoteliers.  

“A TBID would not only put the industry in the driving seat in efforts to sustain and boost the area’s offer, but would provide a more sustainable funding model for its future promotion.  

“There is no doubt that what we are proposing is a different way of operating in this area. It is also a huge opportunity to show leadership, to innovate and to positively change the trading environment. This is not a project we have undertaken lightly but we have recognised that maintaining the current status quo is not an option. Put simply, the public sector will not be in a position to fund tourism marketing beyond 2014 in the way it has done in the past.”  

If a TBID is not established, a reassessment of how existing funding structures and delivery mechanisms operate will be necessary, in particular how Marketing Birmingham and other partners promote the area’s tourism offer, and the funding available to support this work. This could lead to a reduction in the resources available to promote Birmingham and Solihull’s visitor economy.  

Lee Alibone, General Manager, nitenite cityhotels Birmingham, added:   “From the redevelopment of New Street Station, the extension of the runway at Birmingham Airport, the Resorts World development at The NEC, to the new Library of Birmingham; we have much to offer visitors here. Our profile as a tourist and business destination is growing nationally and internationally, and we have to capitalise on that. The proposal to create a Birmingham and Solihull TBID is a positive move, which will allow the industry to control its own destiny. Like every other industry, ultimately we are responsible for our own growth.”

Marketing Birmingham is currently consulting with hoteliers and hotel groups on proposals outlining what the Birmingham and Solihull TBID can achieve, the activity it will deliver and how it will be funded.

Affected hoteliers have an opportunity to review and influence the proposals now ahead of a ballot vote on the TBID in summer 2014. All hotels and serviced accommodation providers with 30 or more bedrooms in the Birmingham City Council and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council areas will be eligible to vote. For the TBID to proceed the ballot must secure majority support (over 50%) of those that vote.

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