Northern Powerhouse

3 Feb 2020 by Nisha Shroff

Back in 2013, the Greater Manchester Strategy for the Visitor Economy 2014-2020 report predicted that ‘in 2020, the visitor economy will continue to be a key driver of the social, cultural and economic life of Greater Manchester’. Looks like they are close to achieving this as the city nearly receives around 17 million visits a year.   

Presently, Manchester is the third most visited city in the UK after London and Edinburgh. Given its rising  popularity, many private and public organisations in the region are leaving no stone unturned in creating significant business opportunities for Indians as well as in strengthening partnerships between the two regions.

A case in a point is the Manchester India Partnership (MIP), a public-private collaboration that aims to capitalise on global trade, tourism and academic opportunities between the two destinations. To promote this, the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham visited Mumbai last October and gave his insight on the strategic partnership (read our full interview with him here).    

Talking about the MIP’s vision, Burnham said, “It is about holistically building on the history and the longstanding links between the two destinations, and turning it into a contemporary relationship. It is a partnership of equals where we are learning, trading and sharing various aspects with each other. We are a tech-city and India is full of the best tech talent. We also recently ran a competition where we worked with start-ups and helped them relocate to Manchester.”     

He further added that another aim is to strengthen the educational links and local universities to attract Indian youth and further build the connection between India and Manchester.     

To summarise, we are looking at a modern relationship with inspiration from the past and a vision of the future. It’s also interesting to note that a statue of  Mahatma Gandhi has recently been unveiled in Manchester to promote his teachings.    

Meanwhile, for the leisure traveller, Manchester has a lot to offer. Its stance as a global sports city is incomparable. It has evolved into a world-class city right from its restaurants and the airport which is undergoing a billion pound transformation, to its skyline. Modern Manchester is evolving by the day — with its standards constantly rising. The city has a vibrant hospitality scene too. Business travellers can now find hotels that weren’t there 15-20 years ago along with new hubs and upcoming companies. With this, Manchester is going through a rebirth of sorts. Although it still prides itself on its rich history, the old Manchester as people know it, is changing.

Expert Speak 

Manchester’s tourism portfolio is fairly balanced — having a third of business travellers, a third of leisure seekers and a third of student population. The focus is on second-time visitors because people are still more inclined to go to London. We want people to travel beyond London, and experience Manchester in all its glory-Sheona Southern, managing director at Marketing Manchester

A cultural destination 

With over £300 million of additional investment being committed this year by tourism organisations, Manchester is set to reach new heights as a leading cultural destination.

One can view the country’s best art collections at Manchester Art Gallery; learn how the industrial revolution began in the city at the Museum of Science and Industry or experience the city’s radical past at the People’s History Museum. Sheona Southern, managing director at Marketing Manchester, says that in 2020, Manchester will see new cultural projects and regenerations after huge levels of investments are finalised.

She says, ”Over the next two years, we are going to create fresh cultural experiences. A new garden – RHS Garden Bridgewater – opens this summer. Pegged to be the largest garden in Europe, it is expected to be a lovely sanctuary for visitors to unwind. It will be great for their mental well-being as well.”

Other major projects include the re-opening of the Contact and Octagon theatres; an exciting new attraction at Wigan Pier; and the launch of Marketing Manchester’s Visitor Pass, which will offer a myriad of deals across Manchester’s sites, restaurants and bars.

Apart from its buzzing vibe, Manchester is considered as one of Europe’s music capitals, which is home to popular bands such as Oasis, Take That, The Verve to name a few. Synonymous to the Manchester music scenario, the exorbitant Manchester Arena that opened in 1995, has seen performances by Lady Gaga, U2, Cirque du Soleil and The Rolling Stones. Upcoming concerts include those by the Jonas Brothers, The Script and The 1975.

Further boosting its music stance, in 2021, The Factory, Manchester International Festival’s new permanent home will open, putting Manchester on the global map as a popular city for concerts.

So, it’s definitely an exciting time for both domestic and international travellers to visit the city.

Catch a fixture 

The continued success and profile of Manchester United and Manchester City in the Premier and Champions Leagues is the foundation of its sporting character.

However, this northern English city has more than just football to offer. From cricket and rugby leagues to cycling and ice hockey, the town is home to many world-class sporting venues and teams.   

With the hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 2002, Olympic football matches in 2012 and most recently the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, Manchester is further expanding its sports identity.

Experience the highs of English football at one of the UK’s greatest football stadiums, Manchester United’s Old Trafford, which has over 150 years of history. Here, guests can book the stadium tour, explore the club museum or wander around the ground. You can also head to Red Café for lunch.

Another ultra-modern football hub, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, is just a 30-minute walk from the cool Ancoats neighbourhood. The stadium tour lets you see the press conference room, the players tunnel, the pitch-side, the warp-up area and displays of iconic Manchester City memorabilia.

If you want to know how football became the game of English lives, a visit to the National Football Museum will help you find the answer.   

For cricket enthusiasts, a visit to the Old Trafford Cricket Ground is a must. It is the second oldest test match venue in the UK, behind the Oval, and has hosted the first-ever Ashes test match on English soil. visitbritain.com

What’s more 

Manchester has an artsy and charming vibe. Neighbourhoods like the Northern Quarter and Exchange Square are flocked with sidewalk cafes, trendy restaurants, upscale bars and shopping centres. Definitely, worth a visit are some heritage structures like the Manchester Cathedral or The John Rylands Library.

The city’s food and drink culture is also thriving with many restaurants, microbreweries, gastropubs and bars. One must try different types of cuisines at The Corn Exchange; sip some lager at The Pilcrow, a contemporary pub in Sadler’s Yard or try out Alpine food at the Albert’s Schloss, a Bavarian beer-house on Peter Street.

If you are looking for some luxe options then Refuge at Principal Manchester is ideal. It is one of the hippest addresses in town, largely serving Asian cuisine. Some accommodation options here include The Lowry, Principal Manchester, The Edwardian Manchester, A Radisson Collection Hotel, and King Street Townhouse.

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