Chester’s regional destinations will work closer together to attract more visitors. BARRY ELLAMS reports.
A FORMIDABLE trinity of Cheshire attractions could attract more visitors to the region this year.
A pro-active marketing campaign will draw on the collective firepower of Cheshire Oaks, Chester Zoo and the city of Chester to enhance the region’s reach and appeal to visitors.
Cheshire Oaks – a designer shopping village with restaurants and a cinema – attracts 6.7 million visitors annually while Chester Zoo recorded 1.2 million visitors in 2007 and, according to recent figures, Chester is enjoying a rise in footfall above 8.5 million.
Chester’s history, the zoo’s nation-wide appeal and Cheshire Oaks’s diverse range and affordability are a strong group of unique brands each distinctive but complementing each other.
Chester’s unique selling point – its historic shops, Roman heritage, restaurants and hotels – can be packaged alongside the designer outlet and zoo which attract their own visitors from across the UK.
Cheshire Oaks’s new general manager, Colin Wilding, is keen to see an alliance between the traditional rivals of Chester city centre and Cheshire Oaks to broaden the appeal of the region.
Mr Wilding was instrumental in strengthening the relationship between the City of York and its out of town retail centre run by McArthur Glen.
He attributes the success of Cheshire Oaks to an “understanding of consumer desires and needs”.
Mr Wilding sees closer co-operation between Cheshire Oaks and Chester as “an invigoration of attributes in the region”.
He said: “From an economic development perspective everyone needs to benefit.
“I think we have to put the message out that we as a region have a lot to offer. Chester has the streets, the walls, the history and boutique experience while Cheshire Oaks has the largest and broadest range of shops in the UK.
“We need to leverage the power of Cheshire West because we are powerful enough to be bold.”
Chester Zoo, which has plans to develop a “super-zoo”, has also encouraged closer co-operation between West Cheshire attractions.
Zoo commercial director David Titmus said: “As one of the UK’s most successful attractions, Chester Zoo believes that, with Chester and Cheshire Oaks, we create a centre of gravity that draws more and more people and more investment into the region.”
David Pickering, chairman of Chester city management, believes the cluster of powerful brands will enhance awareness of West Cheshire as a destination.
He said: “We welcome the opportunity of strategically engaging with both the zoo and Cheshire Oaks. Between the three of us we entice some 16 million visitors annually, many of whom are single destination visitors.
“If each venue were to only benefit from 10% of the others footfall then that would add 500,000 visitors at each location.
“Chester city would welcome an extra 10,000 visitors weekly and I am sure the same applies to Cheshire Oaks and the zoo. We at city management will do everything we can to bring that about in 2009.
“Chester has a superb range of offers available to visitors, with both Cheshire Oaks and Chester Zoo at the very forefront of their professions. With everyone working together we represent a major force in the UK visitor economy.”
While a new fleet of Virgin Voyager trains taps into London and Milton Keynes markets there remains opportunities to attract more visitors within the North West.
The test for the incoming Cheshire West and Chester Council will be to improve public transport between the region’s attractions, in particular Chester Zoo and Chester station.
Chester MP Christine Russell said: “It’s a very positive development. In many ways Chester and Cheshire Oaks complement each other rather than compete.”