Five year tourism plan for county as chair steps down

Paul Heathcote MBE
Paul Heathcote MBE

A five year plan to attract 70 million visitors to Lancashire by 2020 and increase jobs by 5,000 to more than 60,000 is due to be launched.

The Visitor Economy Strategy for Lancashire will be launched by Marketing Lancashire, after the organisation consulted businesses across the county on issues relating to the visitor economy and to the areas of focus required to continue to grow the sector.

The announcement comes as renowned restaurateur Paul Heathcote MBE steps down from his role as chairman.

Marketing Lancashire was created in 2012 with considerable investment from Lancashire County Council, replacing the former Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board and Paul Heathcote was the company’s first chairman, announced on May 9 2012.

His initial task was to appoint a chief executive and in August that year, Ruth Connor was invited to join the fast-developing new company, charged with supporting the visitor economy and attracting investment into Lancashire.

Over the last three years Paul has seen visitor numbers to Lancashire reach current levels of 63 million a year, an increase of three million visitors, and the visitor economy pump an additional quarter of a billion pounds into the Lancashire economy. The sector now recognised by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as one of the county’s most significant areas of growth.

Under Paul’s tenure, membership of Marketing Lancashire has grown by 100 per cent and the annual Lancashire Tourism Awards have also flourished, with last year’s celebration at The Blackpool Tower Ballroom the largest ever tourism industry awards in Lancashire, reflecting the quality, diversity and renewed pride in tourism across the county.

Ruth Connor chief executive of Marketing Lancashire said: “Paul has presided over one of the most important periods in the development of Marketing Lancashire and has helped deliver tremendous results whilst building the foundation for both the organisation and also brand ‘Lancashire’ to prosper.

“He has supported myself and the team with huge enthusiasm and brought with him his wealth of experience, his network of contacts and his understanding of the hospitality industry, for which we are genuinely grateful.

“We wish Paul continuing success with his business ventures and thank him for being such a passionate ambassador for Lancashire.”

Mr Heathcote said: “It has been a privilege to chair the organisation and oversee the transformation in Marketing Lancashire.

“I have always been a vocal supporter of Lancashire and I will continue to be an advocate for this wonderful county.”

Marketing Lancashire is currently leading on strategic marketing activity for the LEP, with a 12 month PR campaign and a county-wide consultation exercise to bring together the Lancashire economic narrative.

A search for a new chair is now under way.