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Visitor numbers soar in record year for tourism in Leeds

The number of people visiting Leeds soared to a record high last year and helped to generate more than £1.7bn for the local economy.

New data shows the city welcomed 29.01 million tourist visits in 2017 - up 6.3 per cent from 2016.

Light Night in Leeds

Light Night in Leeds

Day visitors grew by 6.5 per cent on the previous year whilst those staying overnight rose by 3.6 per cent.

Visit Leeds, an organisation run by Leeds City Council that aims to promote attractions in the area, said visitor numbers were at record levels as it revealed the figures today.

Leisure tourism visits were estimated to have generated £1.74bn for the economy, up 6.4 per cent compared to 2016.

And the tourism industry supported more than 20,000 full time equivalent jobs, a rise of six per cent.

Leeds West Indian Carnival

Leeds West Indian Carnival

Council leader Coun Judith Blake said: “We are extremely proud and feel very fortunate to know that we live and work in a leading world-class European city and it’s excellent to see that these figures show that more people are coming to Leeds to see this for themselves.

“We have a fantastic reputation for being a welcoming city and for hosting world class events that people come from far and wide to enjoy.

“Tourism like this has a significant impact on the Leeds economy, helping to create and sustain jobs for people who live here, to ensure the city remains one of the most sought after visitor destinations in the UK.”

During the year, the city hosted events including the World Triathlon Series in June and Light Night in October, an arts and light festival that attracted record numbers.

The year also included Pride and Leeds West Indian Carnival, which celebrated its 50th birthday.

And as well as hosting major sports events, boasting four major theatres and being home to more than 16 museums and galleries, Leeds is also recognised as the third best shopping destination in the country, outside of London.

Dan Wharton, Marketing Manager at Trinity Leeds, shopping centre said: “It’s no surprise that tourists are flooding to the vibrant city of Leeds with its world-class shopping, leisure and cultural offering.

“The city has climbed up the retail rankings in recent years and Trinity Leeds has welcomed over 120 million visitors and 68 new brands since its launch, contributing £150m to the city’s economy every year.

“Tourism has played a key role in that.”

Head of Communications at Leeds Grand Theatre Amy Sanderson added: "It’s great to hear that the investment in hosting international sporting events as well as the consistently high quality cultural offer across Leeds is having such a positive impact on tourists coming to the city.”

Visit Leeds said its own research suggests visitors are attracted to the city due to its shopping offer, cultural attractions including opera, theatre and ballet and its fast growing food and drink scene.

Such aspects have also been recognised by Leeds Business Improvement District (BID), which represents more than 1,000 businesses in the city centre, and runs schemes including welcome ambassadors to help to give people a positive impression of the city.

Chief executive Andrew Cooper said the positive figures were great for Leeds and reflected an “upward trajectory” in the number of hotels being built and the city getting a bigger profile.
He said: “People are seeing us as a safe city, friendly, we have got cultural diversity and a strong retail offer.”

“People realise that as a city we are transforming,” he added.

Sir Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said Leeds had seen a “cultural, lifestyle and entertainment renaissance”, enhanced by events in both the city and across the Yorkshire region.

He told the YEP: “Leeds has everything you need from a city, with spectacular countryside on the doorstep too and it’s just this combination that makes Yorkshire so unique; we have the whole package.

“An independent study recently revealed tourism in Yorkshire and the supply chain effect is worth £8 billion per year – so when one part of the county flourishes other areas can reap the benefits too.

“Leeds can be rightly proud of where it’s at right now. The secret is out and I can only see visitor numbers growing further.”