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City can weather the storm!

TOURISM bosses in Chester say there are reasons to be cheerful despite the gloomy outlook worldwide.

TOURISM bosses in Chester say there are reasons to be cheerful despite the gloomy outlook worldwide.

The aftermath of September 11, exacerbated by the New York plane crash of two weeks ago, has led to a dramatic drop in the number of overseas tourists and business visitors to the UK.

But Chester is better placed to weather the storm than many destinations because its trade is spread across several different markets making it less vulnerable.

City tourism manager Colin Potts said: 'The reason Chester does OK is that it is not dependent on one market. It has got a very good mix of leisure, day trippers and international as well as corporate and conference.

'As all the hotels have got a good mix it means if one or two elements are down for whatever reason it is often compensated for by the other areas. That's what's happening.

'There has been a drop of between 20 and 25% in business tourism and that's the more expensive end of the market, but it is being compensated for by leisure.'

Mr Potts said the impact of foot and mouth disease had hit leisure tourism earlier in the year with business clients taking up some of the slack.

This trend had probably been reversed to some degree by the events of September 11.

Mr Potts said hotel weekend trade appeared to be holding up. Because of this, the launch of a discount scheme, which includes accommodation, had to be delayed so it could be retargeted at the weekday trade because there were no rooms available at weekends.

He said: 'It could be people who otherwise would have gone abroad. Some people are preferring to stay closer to home rather than venturing further afield. Those destinations regarded as reassuring and high quality are doing well.

'Also there may be an element of pent up demand for travel after foot and mouth.

'There may also be a psychological component that there has been so much bad news around that people are wanting to make themselves feel better by having a weekend away somewhere really nice.'

And there has been good news for Chester in the travel industry.

The city was voted fifth Best British City in the Daily Telegraph's Travel Awards after London, Edinburgh, York and Bath. The awards were based on 25,000 questionnaires filled in by the British travelling public.

In addition, the British Tourist Authority, charged with selling Britain abroad, has decided to include Chester as one of 23 UK cities worth shouting about in a promotional brochure sent overseas.

The brochure, which is an objective guide and not an advertorial, has devoted two pages to Chester compared with just one page each for Oxford and Cambridge.

A CHESTER hotelier has just returned from an important sales 'hugging' mission to Japan ­ one of the few British hoteliers to make such a trip since the terrorist atrocities in the US on September 11.

Jonathan Slater, managing director of five-star The Chester Grosvenor, visited Japan to promote the hotel and the city of Chester in one of the most important overseas markets to Britain.

He has returned from Tokyo in good spirits and optimistic for the future of Japanese travel to Britain.

He said: 'I received a fantastic welcome there and was particularly pleased that all the travel agents and tour operators I spoke to were keen to hear positive messages about travel to Britain next year.'

He said he was able to show the Japanese travel trade that the city and surrounding area is very much open to the public, and that visitors from Japan ­ who stay at The Chester Grosvenor in their hundreds each year -­ will experience every bit as wonderful a holiday as they have in previous years.

l The Japanese tourist market is one of the most important to the UK, with about half a million visitors arriving in Britain each year

* OWNERS and managers of tourism attractions and hotels learned how to become spin-doctors when they attended a public relations workshop.

Organised by Chester Tourism, the event aimed to help venues market themselves more effectively in the aftermath of foot and mouth and September 11.

Among those attending were Chester Cathedral, Bithell's Boats, Alexander's Jazz Theatre Bar, Guide Friday, the Cheshire Military Museum and Ness Gardens.

Hotels ranged from larger venues like the Mollington Banastre, the Ramada Jarvis Hotel, Christleton, and the Queen Hotel in City Road, where the event was held, to smaller outfits like the nearby Eaton Hotel plus Hoole Road venues such as the Limes Hotel, the Chester Court Hotel and the Pear Tree Guest House.

Marketing experts from Chester City Council's tourism department and outside PR consultant Martin Evans introduced delegates to preparing a press release, how to handle the media and photo opportunities.

The Chronicle's chief reporter David Holmes also gave an insight into the world of local newspapers and answered questions.

Alison Kelly, senior marketing officer at the city council, said: 'It was really just to help them help themselves. We can do a certain amount of public relations but this was giving them the tools and training to equip them to get more coverage in the press.'


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