On Thursday (30 April), we co-hosted a webinar exploring how the city’s visitor economy can start to look towards a recovery.
With around 150 attendees from across the city region the webinar panel led by Chris Brown from Marketing Liverpool and Bill Addy from Liverpool BID Company included; Claire McColgan from Culture Liverpool, Donna Howitt from Liverpool ONE, Ben Williams from ACC Liverpool, Laura Pye from National Museums Liverpool, Paul Askew from The Art School Restaurant and Steven Hesketh from Savvy Hotels.
The panel explored retail, leisure & hospitality and culture, events & brand Liverpool, and how these sectors have dealt with the issues that the Coronavirus outbreak has brought – and what the city region must start to do in order to recover and rebuild when the time is right.
“We have a role to help people establish normality in their lives”
As shops, museums, restaurants and venues across the city keep their doors closed they are faced with the unthinkable task of keeping people away, for now. But when the time is right the panel agreed that it will be these same shops and venues that will play one of the biggest parts in helping people find and adjust to a new sense of normality.
Whilst shops may find social distancing measures like those seen in supermarkets are a good solution, museums and galleries may have to explore other options. Our national museums are naturally immersive environments, and Laura discussed how to keep health and safety as the top priority without compromising people’s experience.
Liverpool has been used to seeing year-on-year increases in visitors to our city centre, in particular Liverpool ONE, however Donna explained that we must be prepared for a drop in footfall for many months to come. And even when the shops do reopen, visitors are likely to be met with reduced opening hours as the city adapts to living with Coronavirus.
“We must be brave and show courage and resilience”
Coronavirus has brought challenges for every sector but none more so than hospitality and tourism. For restaurants and bars, their very ethos is based on bringing people together and Paul agreed that it will be a challenge to adapt this in order to keep people safely apart. The sector has resigned itself to the fact that it is likely to be one of the last to come out of lockdown but Paul is still optimistic.
Liverpool is a city that’s faced financial pressures and challenges before, albeit perhaps not quite on this scale. But this time we are building from the best possible place. The city and it’s visitor economy has continued to grow over recent years and it is this success and the knowledge it has brought that will help the city begin to rebuild once the time is right.
“We can’t let our imaginations be stilted”
The panel all agreed that health and wellbeing would become one of the key considerations for visitors when the city implements a recovery plan. Venues across the city will need to be united in their approach to go above and beyond to ensure they are offering a safe environment and experience for visitors.
When travel re-opens Liverpool will find itself in competition with every destination in the world like never before and Claire spoke of the city needing an ‘aggressive’ marketing strategy to ensure that once Liverpool is open for business, the whole world knows about it.
Whilst the city begins to think about the very early stages of what a recovery plan may look like, the day to day work doesn’t stop as Ben explained. ACC Liverpool have tried to focus their efforts on rearranging and postponing events rather than cancelling them all together. The city has always proved popular with event organisers and Ben explained that that interest in Liverpool as a host city is still there, we will just need to adapt how we work to attract key events and conferences.
Part of that adaptation will come through funding. The Marketing Liverpool team are already exploring innovative ways in which we can work with our partners over the next year whilst adapting to the changes in funding that we are likely to experience. As the city council lobbies the government for the right support, the team are working alongside bodies such as VisitBritain to ensure any money received is spent wisely in the right places at a local level.
“This is a city built on the skills and talent of the people in it’s communities”
Liverpool is a city that is known for its sense of community and this is something that we must use to our advantage. The panel discussed the idea that there is a whole supply chain of businesses and individuals who are being affected by Coronavirus and organisations across the city face the task of working to ensure skills and talent are not lost.
“We must rebuild from our core”
A key factor for any destination will be instilling a sense of trust in visitors and also, local residents. Chris explained how the first stage of a recovery plan is likely to focus on local residents and how we can engage with the local community. The key will be creating demand thanks to confidence but the city must first install a confidence within its local people that the city is open and safe.
Local residents are not usually the focus of any visitor campaign but when the time comes to operate a recovery plan, Chris emphasised the importance that the local people across the city region will play in easing Liverpool out of lockdown.
Marketing Liverpool continues to work with our partners, including the Liverpool Visitor Economy Network, to ensure the city’s industry has the chance to recover. If you are interested in watching the whole webinar please head to Liverpool BID Company’s social channels.