Lancaster is on the up-and-up as a tourist attraction, figures have revealed.
The number of people visiting the district rose by 109,000 year-on-year to 6.95m in 2013.
This boosted our economy to the tune of £381.6m, a rise in tourist spending of £22.5m on the previous year.
Research by STEAM (Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor) also showed the number of jobs in the tourism industry rose from 5,424 to 5,670 in 2013.
Interest in the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire Witch Trials at Lancaster Castle was hailed as one reason for the increase in visitors.
Other major city draws include the castle itself, the museums, Atkinsons coffee shop, outdoor theatre in Williamson Park, the quay and the twice-weekly Charter Market.
Francesca Lewis, events manager at Lancaster Castle, said: “I think the witch trials made a massive difference to us; we had about 8,000 that weekend.
“The BID (Business Improvement District) is helping Lancaster and it looks like it’s becoming more promising for the area.”
Lancashire also enjoyed a bumper year for tourism, with 63.2m visitors spending £3.5bn, a rise of 4.4% on 2012.
Meanwhile Lancaster tourism received another boost after 28 tour operators gave the city a massive thumbs up. Coach and rail group tour organisers from the UK and Germany paid a fact-finding visit to Lancaster last week and sampled its attractions.
Charlette Mills, of Harrington-Ross Travel in Essex, described Lancaster as “the jewel in the North West” and said she was likely to run a coach trip to Lancaster in March 2016.
Jean Baker, of the North Derbyshire Association of Women’s Clubs in Chesterfield, said: “Hansel and Gretel in the park is something I will never forget. It was an amazing two days.”
The get-together was organised by (BID) Lancaster Unlimited – Lancaster’s Business Improvement District, and Bay Tourism Association.
Suzi Bunting, Lancaster Unlimited manager, said: “Some of them run 25 coach tours a year to different parts of the UK and had never considered Lancaster.
“But they were well and truly besotted with what’s on offer.
“One group operator from Essex didn’t even know Lancaster had a train station.
“A couple from Germany stayed over an extra night and loved the canal boat tour, and the Play in the Park was an absolute hit.”
Roger Carter, chairman of Bay Tourism Association, called it “a successful showcase for Lancaster”.
“Nearly all of them were first-time visitors to Lancaster and I’ve been getting quite a few ‘thank you’ emails,” said Mr Carter.
Lancaster Unlimited has also launched a new brochure called ‘Lancaster is Unlimited for Groups’ designed to encourage groups and coach tours to visit the city.