Brexit could end up providing a major boost for Lancashire’s tourism industry.
That is the predicition of the chief executive of Marketing Lancashire, who believes the UK’ exit from the European Union in March will result in a spike in ‘staycation’ holidays - and a big boost for Lancashire’s already-popular tourist hotspots.
Rachel McQueen, chief executive of Marketing Lancashire, said that although there may be some restrictions on inbound tourism in the future, the domestic market was still very strong.
She said: “There’s probably a window of opportunity for the domestic market.
“No-one knows at the moment what is going to happen. People are wondering about their holidays and thinking ‘let’s wait and see.’
“We need to maximise that and attract people to Lancashire.
“The domestic market is strong and we already get many visitors from overseas from within the EU and outside of the EU.”
In 2016, Lancashire attracted 67 million visitors who generated £4.13 billion revenue and supported more than 59,000 jobs.
A huge chunk of that is down to Blackpool and the lure of its seaside fun.
But there are also hoards of tourists drawn to beauty spots like Pendle Hill, the Ribble Valley, Lancaster and Lancashire’s beautiful countryside and historic homes.
Rachel joined Marketing Lancashire in May from Marketing Cheshire where she held the role of Tourism Director.
She previously worked at Marketing Manchester, as Director of Marketing and Deputy Chief Executive.
Belfast-born Rachel lives in Egerton, near Bolton, and now considers herself a bona fide Northerner.
Marketing Lancashire is the Destination Management Organisation for Lancashire and promotes the county on a national and international stage, through strategic marketing and communications.
Rachel jumped at the chance to take the top job and says she and her experienced team are passionate about the county.
Rachel said the county had a lot to offer and its road, rail and air links via Manchester and Liverpool airports were vitally important.
Tourism numbers have been been steadily rising in recent years – although it is not yet known what effect this year’s rail chaos has caused.
The official 2018 figures will not be available until about September.
Rachel said: “2018 was a massively important year for Blackpool with the launch of Icon (the new Pleasure Beach ride), and lot of the time the trains didn’t run.
“That didn’t help at all and the economy, productivity and tourism all suffered in the sumnmer.”
She said the organisation had voiced its frustration, but hopefully in the long run the electification of the rail line and direct link to London would be helpful to Blackpool and Lancashire as a whole.
Rachel said the latest figures showed that visitors to Lancashire were spending more while here.
She said Lancashire had a wealth of attractions and visitors were often now looking for “experiences” rather than just sight-seeing.
She said: “The percentage spent is increasing more than the percentage of visitors.”
People are spending more when they are here.
They are also looking for experiencnes rather than just wanting to see things.
“One of our tasks is to get more peole staing over night. The overnight visitor will obviously spend more than the day visitor.”
Another aim is to attract visitors from wider afield – both from within and outside of the UK.
Social media and marketing plays a vital role in spreading the message around the world.
Marketing Lancashire’s annual campaign to get Lancashire Day trending on social media broke records with a potential reach of more than 173 million - a huge 133 per cent rise on the 74 million achieved in 2017.
Lancastrians from across Europe as well Canada, Indonesia, Argentina, Japan and America flooded social media with their own pictures, memories and well wishes for Lancashire Day – the day in 1295 when the first elected representatives from Lancashire were called to Westminster by King Edward I.
And Marketing Lancahsire now has high-profile ambassadors in the shape of former cricket star Andrew Flintoff and TV presenter Ravir Singh.