In Culture

Cultural Destinations and the Visitor Economy

Stoke-on-Trent’s visitor economy strategy rightly proclaims that 'the City will lead with cultural tourism …. to accelerate growth in the visitor economy by communicating a strong distinctive positioning in the marketplace, delivering more experiences that will attract the higher spending cultural boomers and achieve more overnight stays’.

Culture is very much back in vogue in Stoke-on-Trent. Award-winning theatres, museums and gardens, vibrant contemporary arts events and festivals, and the outstanding ‘Creative People and Places’ programme, Appetite, have strengthened our arts and cultural profile over recent years.

The city’s industrial heritage is increasingly seen as a key motivator for discerning cultural tourists visiting ‘must see’ pottery attractions across the city, the British Ceramics Biennial and the literary-themed ‘Festival in a Factory’. And a worldwide renown for ceramics gives us a global presence in a recognized art form.

Changing Cultural Landscape

The changing cultural landscape and the fact that visitors do not differentiate between cultural activities and the broader tourism offer makes it imperative that the worlds of culture and tourism work more closely together. This was a key factor in Stoke-on-Trent’s successful ‘Cultural Destinations’ bid.

Cultural Destinations is an initiative developed by the Arts Council in partnership with Visit England, the national tourist board. The programme is designed to enable arts and culture organisations to work collaboratively with destination management organisations such as Visit Stoke, to increase their resilience, audience reach and engagement. 

A successful bid which secured £270,000 with additional match funding of £30,000 from the city council has led to the creation of a new consortium of tourism and cultural organisations who are collaborating to help grow the visitor economy and strengthen the city’s year-round cultural offer.

Led by Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, the other partners are:

  • Visit Stoke
  • Trentham Estate
  • World of Wedgwood
  • Middleport Pottery
  • British Ceramics Biennial
  • Appetite
  • B Arts
  • Staffordshire University

Mentoring support for the consortium is provided by Creative Tourist based on their experience of actively working with other successful cultural places. Working together we will deliver a three-year programme from 2017-2020 to raise the city’s profile and attractiveness as an important national and international cultural destination.

First Year Evaluation

A first-year evaluation report produced by The Audience Agency has indicated that Cultural Destinations comes at a significant time for the city in contributing to the delivery of legacy plans from the UK City of Culture bid, whilst supporting existing investment in culture in the locality.

The programme was devised to be respondent to the market opportunities identified around domestic tourism – specifically around the development of: infrastructure, product and communications. In summary the long-term outputs agreed by the consortium partners are:

  • The potential of arts and culture to drive growth in the domestic visitor economy is developed and cultural engagement increased.
  • A cross sector vision and approach to cultural tourism will be realised and partnerships sustained.
  • The arts and cultural offer is enhanced, with focused quality product developed for the domestic market.
  • Perceptions of North Staffordshire are improved, with the cultural offer embedded in the narrative of change about the area.
  • North Staffordshire is recognised as a visitor destination with a strong cultural offer, attracting more day visits and overnight stays from domestic visitors. 
  • Domestic visitors experience consistent and informed welcome through digital and physical visitor gateways.
  • The tourism industry is more engaged in the promotion of North Staffordshire’s tourism, arts and cultural offer.

Audience Spectrum

As we embark on year two of the programme, as well as enhancing existing cultural ‘products’, we will look to develop a visitor welcome package, explore the feasibility of an accredited volunteering scheme; co-ordinate familiarisation visits and social media campaigns; and support the city council’s wider ‘Stoke-on-Trent Remembers’ campaign and events to commemorate 100 years since the end of First World War.

We will also be responding to visitor profile research to target three ‘Audience Spectrum’ tourism markets which align with our cultural tourism offer:

  • ‘Commuterland Culturebuffs’ – affluent and professional consumers of culture.
  • ‘Dormitory Dependables’ – suburban and small towns interest in heritage activities and mainstream arts.
  • ‘Trips and Treats’ – mainstream arts and popular culture influenced by children, family and friends.

Cultural Destinations will help to create a stronger, distinctive and more competitive cultural tourism offer to enable Stoke-on-Trent to gain from the local benefits delivered by growth in both the visitor economy and arts and culture.




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