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
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
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