Following Warwickshire being named as one of travel bible Lonely Planet's top ten European destinations earlier this summer, Macdonald Hotel's Regional Manager for the Midlands, Derek McDonagh, reflects on the enduring charm of Shakespeare's home county and on what lies ahead for the tourist hotspot...

Warwickshire's best known son, William Shakespeare, has helped make Warwickshire world famous, so I am not surprised by Lonely Planet ranking our area alongside Venice and The Dordogne.

Tourism supports more than 18,000 jobs and brings in £1billion annually from 15 million visits to the region. It is exciting to see that there are also a number of major tourism projects in the pipeline; so we have great faith for the future growth of tourism in the region.

Both our hotels in Stratford Upon Avon, Macdonald Swan's Nest Hotel, a redbrick townhouse built in the 1600s, and the Tudor-style Macdonald Alveston Manor Hotel, have increased occupancy year on year for the last five years; with occupancy figures for Macdonald Alveston Manor Hotel up 9% in the first six months of 2016 compared to last year. On the fringes of Warwickshire Macdonald Ansty Hall has seen an increase in revenue of 24% in the last five years, whilst Macdonald Burlington Hotel in Birmingham, which gives visitors easy access to the county, has seen occupancy increase from 66% to 72% since 2013.

To service the increased levels of visitors, we have been able to hire more staff and also make major investments in facilities, including a £250,000 upgrade of public areas at Macdonald Alveston Manor Hotel, and have plans to upgrade bedrooms, the bar, restaurant and meeting spaces at Macdonald Burlington Hotel.

The recognition from Lonely Planet is timely, as the county marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death with a string of commemorative events throughout 2016. The celebration of our famous son's legacy coincides with the opening of Shakespeare's Schoolroom and Guildhall to the public following a £1.8million restoration, as well as the opening the writer's family home, which has been re-imagined in a major excavation to recreate the mansion, which was demolished more than 250 years ago.

While Stratford-upon-Avon may be the jewel in Warwickshire's crown, it's far from the only reason the county attracts so many millions every year, not just in summer but all year round. This September the free Leamington Food & Drink Festival returns to the Royal Pump Gardens; sports fans can enjoy a visit to Rugby to pay homage to the home of the oval-ball game when the new £1.2million World Rugby Hall of Fame museum opens later this year. For dog lovers, the British Dog Grooming Championship comes to the Warwickshire Exhibition Centre in Leamington Spa on October 2.

It's encouraging to know that the local authority is not resting on its laurels; with work starting on Stratford-upon-Avon's £30million Town Square, which will create more than 70,000 sq. ft. of retail, restaurant and leisure space, when it's completed next year. Leamington Spa's famous Pump Room Gardens are also to benefit from a £1million investment; and the £600 million redevelopment of Birmingham's New Street Station can only improve travel links to the county.

Lonely Planet's recognition will serve as a boost to the county, and coupled with the continuing 'staycation' trend that sees more Brits choosing to holiday closer to home, we believe our hard work to make the area as attractive as possible to tourists is paying off.