Good times ahead
Cheshire Life: November 2018 As she stands down after five years, the chief executive of Marketing Cheshire predicts a bright future for tourism in the county
The outgoing chief of Cheshire tourism says she believes there are good times for the county. ‘I am really optimistic about the future for Cheshire and I know that the county’s tourism will continue to go from strength to strength,’ said Katrina Michel who stands down this month after five years at the helm of Marketing Cheshire.
According to the latest figures, Cheshire’s tourist economy is worth over £3.5 billion and employs over 36,000 people.
And Katrina, who was awarded the Special Contribution to Tourism Award at the county’s annual tourism awards, added: ‘I am enormously proud of what we have achieved in the last five years and I know that the county’s tourism will continue to go from strength to strength. There is lots of competition but I have absolutely no doubt that Cheshire’s tourism is up to this challenge.’
When she spoke to Cheshire Life a successor had yet to be appointed but Katrina had some words of advice for whoever is selected to follow her as chief executive of Marketing Cheshire. ‘The danger with Cheshire is that if it’s not careful it can look like a lot of other places,’ she said.
‘There are lots of places that offer a nice rural experience and Cheshire could find itself lumped in with Somerset, Suffolk and other places as being a nice place for a country weekend. But Cheshire is so much more than green fields and villages and we have been working hard in the last five to put across the message that Cheshire has a bit more edge and more modernity than that.
‘Cheshire is a lovely place, it’s not like we’re selling a bad product here. We’re not trying to rectify anything, we’re building on good, but vague, perceptions. I think in the past there was a feeling that Cheshire sells itself and that we shouldn’t tell people about us because we don’t want to be over-run.
‘The next person has to understand the national picture and where Cheshire can score. They’ll need to pull together the stake-holders and get them all singing from the same hymn sheet to create a visitor economy that works all year round.’
Originally from London, Katrina moved to Cheshire 20 years ago and she is confident the ingredients are in place for a successful future. She said the Northgate redevelopment in Chester and the city’s new Storyhouse theatre point to promising times ahead and added that HS2 could bring a new wave of tourism to Cheshire and North Wales.
And she paid tribute to the people working in the tourism industry. ‘There are a lot of good entrepreneurs out there who are always one step ahead and are building for the next generation and that has really helped.
‘Cheshire has an extraordinary range of sites, attractions and accommodation that inspire tourists to visit from home and abroad. Importantly it also has world class tourist professionals with the creativity, hard work and flair to bring it all to life. This winning combination is reflected in seven years of consecutive growth in Cheshire’s tourism industry, which is an enormous achievement and one I’m sure can be built on further.
‘Tourism is changing fast and there is no room for complacency. At a national level we not only need to use our creativity and flair to improve our products – which means on-going financial investment – but there needs to be even closer county-wide liaison between all players in the tourist mix. One of the key goals is to make people stay longer and spend more by turning a one night stay into two. This means looking closely at what people want, in particular developing more evening events and activities that will make them want to stay.’
And Katrina, who will remain on the board at Storyhouse and the Halle, added: ‘I am really optimistic about the future for Cheshire. I know all the nice places and I am looking forward to living here and enjoying all it has to offer. I am still going to be a massive supporter of Cheshire. I love it here.’
Entertainment on the evening was themed on ‘Peaky Blinders’, the BBC drama which was filmed in Cheshire, including a Peaky Blinders-style casino and a Peaky Blinder lookalike character. Celebrations continued into the night with guests dancing to Cheshire band, Soul Revolver.