A team of ministers, tourism chiefs, athletes, entrepreneurs and artists from across the West Midlands, UK have addressed more than 80 hospitality delegates and business leaders at the Queen’s Baton Relay, Birmingham.
At the event, they outlined plans to support tourism recovery in the wake of Covid-19, and ahead of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Fiona Allan, chair of West Midlands Regional Board for Tourism and CEO and artistic director of the Birmingham Hippodrome, reflected on some of the challenges caused by Covid. She also highlighted how resilience and innovation within the tourism sector, such as festivals and digital performances, had indicated that a return to business was possible.
She said: “A thriving arts and culture scene is imperative to attracting tourists to the area and it is important that we continue to attract young people to the region to invigorate these industries. Despite Covid, we fulfilled our ambitious mission to provide one million moments to our audiences and communities, but we aim to bring even more people back into Birmingham and support the local businesses further. Next year will be an important year for the city, and we have exciting projects and collaborations in the works, including Bus Boycott project, a new co-produced musical highlighting Birmingham’s diverse history during the Commonwealth summer.”
Bob Sleigh, deputy mayor of the West Midlands Combined Authority, commented: “As the Queen’s Baton leaves Solihull to start its international journey, we can recognise the huge importance of raising the West Midlands’ profile to audiences around the globe. The region welcomed more than 2 million international visits in 2019, with these tourists spending a record £1bn (US$1.3bn) here.
“Reconnecting with our overseas markets, and welcoming them back to this region, is vital as we continue our recovery from the pandemic. Generating more international tourism – which will be boosted by the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games – will drive economic growth and showcase the West Midlands as a place to experience and enjoy.”
Para-athlete and cultural performer Robin Surgeoner, entrepreneur and TV personality Tru Powell and spoken word artist Amerah Saleh also shared their personal stories of finding support and cultural connection. They explained how this enabled them to flourish in their respective careers across arts, sports and culture.
Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, concluded: “The positive impact of a major sporting event such as the Commonwealth Games on the visitor economy in Birmingham and the West Midlands region is indisputable. As we have seen on the Gold Coast and in Glasgow, the Commonwealth Games offers real and long-lasting positive change. It offers a chance to showcase our world-class tourism venues and engaging attractions; and announce to the world we are ready to welcome visitors not only for the Games, but for many years to come.”