INT3 - Positioning Plymouth as a major UK destination
The Plan sets a framework to help will support and secure additional investment in its visitor economy, particularly to enhance Plymouth as a destination for all seasons and encourage high value tourism.
The city will support and secure additional investment in its visitor economy, with programmes and actions to enhance Plymouth as a destination for all seasons, to grow high value tourism, market the city effectively, and support business tourism and tourist related business development and improve productivity. This will include:
- Delivering a high quality visitor accommodation, business and conferencing offer for all visitors in its core tourism and business areas, including:
- Working proactively to attract 4 and 5 star and boutique hotels to the city and in particular to its core tourism, waterfront and business areas, filling a current gap in provision in the city's visitor accommodation offer.
- Supporting investment in alternative visitor accommodation models such as high quality self-catering accommodation, serviced apartments, camping and improving the offer currently provided.
- Prioritising development of high value tourism including attracting more international visitors and business meetings, conference and incentives market.
- Recognising Plymouth as a destination for high quality restaurants and catering, linked to the Britain's Ocean City brand and marine credentials, and supporting proposals and product development that strengthen this offer.
- Enhancing the overall experience of visitors in travelling to and within the city through:
- Working to deliver high quality strategic and low carbon local public transport into and around the city (including the South West Coast Path and National Cycle Network, with good quality visitor information and additional efficient transport management for major events.
- Transforming the gateways to the city, including delivering comprehensive improvements to Plymouth Railway Station and Coach Station, building on the city's cruise/ferry terminal strengths and responding to consumer demand for electric car charging facilities.
- Providing and promoting high quality pick up and drop off facilities for visitor coaches at accessible and convenient locations around the City Centre and Waterfront.
- Delivering a quality public realm for the city centre and core tourism areas along the waterfront.
- Ensuring the the city centre is suitable for active travel modes, is well connected to green and blue spaces, and is actively promoted to prospective visitors.
- Creating smoke-free spaces when events are held.
- Maintaining and delivering a vibrant mix of attractions and destinations to support the visitor economy, including in the cultural, arts, leisure, heritage and retail sectors, as provided for by other policies of this plan.
- Delivering a strategic programme of major events, including the Mayflower 400 celebrations, which deliver a long term economic and cultural development legacy for the city and will provide a vibrant and rich educational resource.
- Enhancing Plymouth's offer for hosting conferences and as a meeting place for national and international business events through delivering a conference and meetings strategy and associated campaigns to attract targeted groups.
- Using planning powers to identify strategic opportunities for new high quality hotels and address capacity shortages in hotels and visitor accommodation, and to support the provision of services and facilities to support the visitor economy.
Tourist demand for Plymouth is growing and significant efforts are being made to increase visitor numbers through events planning and improving the destination offer. In particular, the Mayflower 400 celebrations are a key focal point and opportunity for enhancing the tourism experience. The visitor economy attracts significant numbers of visitors annually. In 2017, 5.17 million visitors visited the city and contributed £347.1 million to the local and regional economy. Currently UK staying visitors account for only 14 per cent of total visitor numbers (676,000 trips per annum) and yet provide 35 per cent of total spend. Overseas visitors provide a further 1 per cent of visitors (79,000) and a further 11 per cent of total spend.
Plymouth currently receives a high percentage of day visitors (85 per cent) which have effectively grown volume and value over the past eight years. However, crucially if productivity and value is to increase in the sector the city needs to attract higher spending overnight visitors in both the UK and international markets. In addition, the high peak of summer demand needs to be offset through growth in the off season which high spending business meetings, incentive and conference visitors can provide.
It is essential that if Plymouth is to become a major UK destination then it must provide outstanding quality facilities and amenities to welcome visitors to the city. This is not only important for attracting visitors and investors but is also important for the reputation of the city.
Current occupancy levels in the city are running at 79 to 80 per cent which is one of the highest in any regional city outside of London. The core city area including immediate drive time has approximately 30 hotels providing 1,734 rooms of predominantly 3 star and below (only one 4 star and one 5 star). Due to the seasonal nature of tourism in the city many accommodation providers are at high or full capacity between April, June and the end of September and this is stifling the opportunity to further grow the higher spending staying and overseas visitor markets which are a key to overall economic growth and additional jobs.
A hotel demand study in September 2014 provided detailed analysis of the drivers for accommodation in the city and identified that there is a gap in the market for good quality 4 star and above provision. There was clear and evidenced potential for new hotel supply with high standards, leisure facilities and international brand to benefit from a global distribution system. The ideal site characteristics for new high quality hotels in Plymouth include: good views to sights that make Plymouth unique (particularly the sea and waterfront) and good access to the main business and tourist areas. A hotel demand study in 2019 has confirmed that demand continues for four star hotels in the city.
Improving the sense of arrival to and departure from the city through ensuring that the city has a high quality transport infrastructure which is welcoming, easy to use and efficient is also important, along with ensuring this achieves a positive impression of the city.
Large cruise liner operators are attracted by the offer that Plymouth and the wider region can provide, and active marketing over the past two years has seen numbers grow from no bookings in 2016 to 8 in 2020 with over 12,000 passengers. There is a real opportunity for the city to improve the existing ferry terminal facilities in the short term to improve the access and welcome for cruise passengers at both Millbay and Commerical Wharf and perhaps longer term to provide larger purpose built berthing for ships in excess of 300m subject to demand.
Plymouth also has a growing reputation as a destination for high quality restaurants and catering on which it should build. In particular in line with the Britain’s Ocean City brand and supporting the marine credentials and National Marine Park concept there is an opportunity to position Plymouth as the seafood capital of the South West on the Seafood coast. The current offer ranges from high-end restaurants with world class chefs through to excellent mid-range offerings and great pubs and cafés. The city also promotes and celebrates the food and culinary traditions of all cultures through public events such as Plymouth’s Flavour Fest and the annual seafood festival. The main food hubs at the Royal William Yard and the Barbican provide both residents and visitors with fantastic environments to eat and drink, while The Hoe is providing a growing range of lifestyle facilities with views across The Sound. The city centre requires development of a higher quality range of restaurants to support the night time economy which will receive a boost following the opening of Drakes Leisure and the South West's only IMAX cinema in October 2019.
Plymouth Hoe and Plymouth Sound are key assets to be used for major events, which bring economic benefits not just in terms of spend but also supply chain opportunities for local businesses. In 2020 the City of Plymouth, Plymouth Massachusetts and their wider partners in the US and UK will commemorate and celebrate the 400-year anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. Plymouth has ambitions for this celebration to be a year of both national and international significance for the city that will bring about commercial opportunities and create a truly transatlantic cultural celebration fit for a global audience.
The Joint Local Plan sets out how the planning process will be used to support this policy.