Shakespeare in front seat in new drive to attract overseas tourists to England’s heartland

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Britain’s most famous playwright William Shakespeare is being used to help spearhead a new drive to attract overseas tourists to the Midlands area of England.

The tourism agency Shakespeare’s England has joined a three-year joint partnership with three other agencies to market Britain’s second biggest city, Birmingham, and the surrounding areas to a global audience.

VisitBritain said Birmingham Airport, the West Midlands Growth Company and Marketing Peak District & Derbyshire, have also joined the partnership.

Together, the organisations will market Birmingham and the surrounding areas to a global audience and convert inspiration to visit into bookings, and promote direct flights to the area.

VisitBritain Commercial Director Carol Dray said: “Increasing regional connectivity not only makes it easier for visitors to see more of Britain, the West Midlands and the Peak District, it boosts economic growth, and helps keep us an attractive destination in this fiercely competitive global market.”

Helen Peters, CEO of Shakespeare’s England, told Xinhua how the famous bard is crucial to tourism to the area where one of the world’s most famous writers was born and lived.

“The name of William Shakespeare is known around the world, so much so that when Birmingham was promoting its airport in China, it was labelled as ‘Shakespeare’s Airport'”.

“Stratford-on-Avon where he was born and lived is a small market town with a population of just 27,000, yet the town attracts over 10 million visitors every year.

There are few towns of that size that attract so many visitors from home and overseas, particularly as the town centre only covers one square mile.”

“But within that square mile are some of the most important sites linked to Shakespeare.”

Asked how Shakespeare would react to the knowledge that his birthplace was so important on the global stage, Peters told Xinhua: “Most artists would wish to leave some kind of legacy and Shakespeare’s name lives on after 400 years. I am sure he would be delighted.

“Although he wrote his famous plays centuries ago, his story lines, covering love, loss, marriage, combats between families, are as relevant today. His work remerges as modern day stories, such as in the musical Guys and Dolls, which is essentially the story of Romeo and Juliet.”

West Midlands Growth Company Director of Marketing and Communications Emma Gray said: “Birmingham and its surrounding areas have become increasingly popular tourist destinations, attracting some 1.5 million international visitors in 2015.”

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