footballIt is always interesting when published research bears out what one has always thought – and in this case it couldn’t be more authoritative that Visit Britain.
In research published in November Visit Britain revealed that more overseas visitors go to the theatre, musicals, opera or ballet (2.8 million) than to a live sporting event (1.3 Million) when visiting Britain. These 2.8 million visits include 14% of all overseas holiday trips, whilst visits incorporating a live sport event make up just 4%.

Theatre tourists spend £2.7 billion whilst visiting the UK and are above average spenders, with each theatre-going visitor spending £983, compared with an average of £600 for regular visitors.

With Sheffield Theatres leading the wins at the recent 2013 UK Theatre Awards and its production of The Full Monty heading to London after a hit tour of the UK, and the award-winning Wicked  heading to Southampton, the popularity and diversity of regional theatre is clear.  The RSC at Stratford has just announced a record increase of 30% in box office income for 2012/13 achieved through a 75% increase in box office.

Based on the recent survey 24% of holiday visitors who stay in London will go to the theatre with just over 2 million international visitors enjoying a show in the capital. Whilst theatre as an activity for overseas visitors is still predominantly London-centric, the West Midlands and the North West show particular promise for theatre tourism interest where 9% of visitors went to the theatre.

As yet Yorkshire and the North East do not appear to benefiting in the same way, despite our having significant attractions in Leeds, Bradford, York and Newcastle. This is perhaps something to which Welcome to Yorkshire could usefully direct its attention since it has been undoubtedly successful in terms of other forms of inbound tourism.
Sandie Shaw, chief executive of Visit Britain, said: “The vitality of our theatres – whether London’s West End or our major regional centres – provides a great holiday experience to our international visitors. In Britain, you can see cutting edge theatre by new

writers, big blockbuster musicals and plenty of Shakespeare with actors who are known across the globe.
If you like theatre, Britain is a great place to enjoy it.

English speaking countries dominate the top 20 markets for the highest volume of visits incorporating a trip the theatre, musicals, the opera or ballet. The USA leads with 426,000 visits followed by the Australians with 209,000 visits.
Looking at age groups it is not just the over 55s who are avid theatregoers – some 36% of overseas visitors who go to the theatre are aged 25 to 44.  Women are the keenest, with 55% of overseas audiences being female. They tend to drive the decision to go to a show and will take along their partner.

This year has been a strong year for theatre tourism. Encore Tickets, a leading West End ticket agent specialising in overseas sales, has reported a 20% growth in sales in 2013. In October VisitBritain revealed that 2013 has seen the strongest visit numbers since 2008, attracting 22 million visitors in the first eight months of the year alone. Spend is also up by 11% (£13.7bn) leaving us on track for a record year.

With The Hepworth recently celebrating its one millionth visitor since opening in 2011, Wakefield is well placed to capitalise on cultural tourism provided that its overall cultural offer can be effectively promoted to a wide public – including international visitors. The opening on Unity Hall in the second half of 2014 offers a unique opportunity to build Wakefield’s cultural profile even further with the consequent benefits to the local economy that are already being felt elsewhere.