Telegraph Voices: What does Sheffield have to offer as a tourism destination?

This week we asked four contributors what they think Sheffield has to offer as a tourism destination.

Wednesday, 11th September 2019, 10:18 am
Updated Friday, 13th September 2019, 11:32 am
Top row left to right: Diane Jarvis, Coun Iqbal Bottom row left to right: Alexis Krachai, Wendy Ulyett

Alexis Krachai, Chair of the Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor Economy Forum and Managing Director of local PR company Counter Context.

Where to begin? There is so much. Some of it is obvious. Some delights need searching out by the curious tourist.

Let’s start with the obvious. The great outdoors. A third of our city is within the Peak District. If you are an adrenalin-fuelled mountain biker, a dashing fell runner or simply enjoy a ramble then you are spoiled for choice. Green space is always close by and you can hire a bike at the train station and be in the Peaks in 30 minutes.

Alexis Krachai

Where do you refuel afterwards? You are in luck. Sheffield has some of the best independent places to eat and drink in the north of England. From Scandinavian-inspired cuisine served up in a shipping container to street food in Castlegate. From hip new bars in Kelham and Neepsend to old favourites around Devonshire Green. You can even grab a cocktail in a toilet. Places to eat, drink and get a little merry are all over the city. Indeed, Sheffield can confidently claim to be the beer capital of the UK. We are home to at least 700 beers. Just ask the academics from the University of Sheffield. They have counted them all. All for research purposes of course.

Fancy a band or a night on the tiles later on? No problem. Sheffield is home to over 460 bands and artists who regularly play across 65 venues around the city. All night, every night there is something to make you tap your feet or go crazy on the dancefloor.

What about the morning after? If you are a culture vulture you are spoiled for choice. 26 art galleries, including the newly renovated Site Gallery and the ever-changing Millennium Galleries. You should also squeeze in a trip to one of our local theatres. The Crucible, Lyceum and others put on 800 performances a year. Together they mean Sheffield has the largest theatre complex outside of London.

Reporters from The Times newspaper have just declared Sheffield: the northern capital of cool. I’m amazed it took them so long to realise. Us locals have known this for years. A bit of me wants to keep it a secret.

Diane Jarvis, BID Manager Sheffield BID

Diane Jarvis, Sheffield BID Manager

I may be biased, but I believe Sheffield has a tourist offer that no other UK city can match.

With a third of the city set within the boundaries of the Peak District – renowned for world-class hiking, climbing and cycling, Sheffield’s visitors can access both stunning countryside and our increasingly vibrant city centre offer... all in the same day.

If the adrenalin of hanging from Stanage or Burbage Edge isn’t your thing, the Peak’s beautiful rolling scenery and famed tourist spots, such as Castleton, Hathersage and Chatsworth House, are just a short drive or bus trip way from the city centre.

Wendy Ulyett, Marketing Manager – Visitor Economy

As you would expect from the country’s fourth biggest city, its urban centre is bustling with creative businesses, students from the city’s two leading universities, shoppers, sports fans and culture seekers.

Tudor Square is a focal point for Sheffield Theatres and the largest theatre complex outside of London.

Each year the Lyceum and Crucible theatres welcome 350,000 people to the city and host more than 800 performances.

It is also the proud home of the World Snooker Championships.

Mazher Iqbal, councillor for Darnall and Cabinet Member for Business and Investment

This central area of town feeds the cultural life of the region, linking directly to the Winter Garden – the largest urban glass house in Europe – and the Millennium Galleries, which recently housed an impressive Leonardo da Vinci exhibition.

The city centre also boasts two leading arthouse cinemas, a nearby Premier League football ground and a revitalised shopping offer that blends premium national brands and local independents.

Arguably the biggest transformation in recent years, however, is the explosion of its food and drink scene.

Fashionable independent cafés, bars, restaurants and food halls by the likes of Tamper, Public, Kommune and Cutlery Works, symbolise this new energy.

Sheffield BID also contributes to one of the UK’s best events programme, including major festivals like Tramlines and Cliffhanger, alongside the twice-yearly Dine Sheffield restaurant week, Style Sheffield fashion showcase, the LEGO-themed Bricktropolis, and, at Christmas, Santa’s Post Office.

These events ensure our city centre is enjoyed by everyone, and together, this allows us to showcase what a wonderful city Sheffield is.

Wendy Ulyett, Marketing Manager – Visitor Economy

Sheffield is my home city. It’s a city I am endlessly proud to be associated with.

It drives me crackers when I hear people saying there’s nothing to do in Sheffield. There are about 14,500 thousand jobs being supported by tourism in Sheffield – a clear indication that there is a tourism industry, so tourists

must be coming.

Take a look at internet review sites – TripAdvisor and the like – to see the thousands of positive comments visitors to the city are posting.

These visitors are coming from across the globe. They don’t come because there’s nothing to see. We hear ‘its better in Manchester, Leeds…’ etc. I’d suggest these places aren’t ‘better’ they are ‘different, different to the experience a tourist will get in Sheffield. The tourism industry today is all about ‘experiences’ and Sheffield is in a very privileged position.

Our industrial heritage tells stories of Little Mesters – independent craftsmen who were the best in the world.

That same independence and high quality translates into today’s Sheffield. There are many, many opportunities to get hands on, to have a go at making in Sheffield. These are the types of experiences that differentiate a destination and using online platforms, for example Airbnb Experiences, TripAdvisor Experiences, provides opportunities to promote these offers to a global audience.

Sheffield is one of only two cities (if you want to include Brighton in the list) in the UK with a national park in its boundary. A fact I am sure most people who’ve grown up in Sheffield are aware of.

A tourist doesn’t see a boundary line, what they see is a city which has beautiful countryside and one of the most palatial country houses in Europe to visit right on its doorstep.

Events taking place in Sheffield – from sports events to exhibitions and live music – bring tourists to Sheffield. What else? Street Art, Alpacas & Football are just a few more of what makes a Sheffield

Experience. All of these create reasons to visit for a day or to stay in a hotel, eat in a restaurant, drink in a bar.

Mazher Iqbal, councillor for Darnall and Cabinet Member for Business and Investment

Sometimes we just don’t appreciate what’s on our own doorstep. We muddle along in our daily lives, look for holidays and ‘special places’ to visit in our valuable spare time and, dare I say it, think the grass is greener.

The world is a big place but event I will admit Sheffield isn’t at the top of people’s bucket list of travel destinations.

That doesn’t mean no-one is visiting and there are no reasons to visit.

The fact is that in excess of 17million people a year visit Sheffield as tourists – they certainly don’t come in those numbers because there’s nothing to see.

Many destinations have the ‘benefit’ of a single visitor attraction which is the backbone of their tourism industry.

However, that could be considered a draw back – once a visitor has been, how likely are they to go back?

If they’re not inspired by the offer of the single visitor attraction will they ever visit? Having all your eggs in one basket is a precarious position – particularly if trends move on.

Sheffield’s strength as a tourism destination is in its diversity. Whilst that could be interpreted as ‘something for everyone (so nothing special) it actually allows us to present niche experiences

targeted at different markets.

As an example our Outdoor City experience using the natural topography of the city, its relationship with The Peak District and the many opportunities for walking, mountain biking, cycling and climbing

– has created an offer which is proving attractive to both the domestic and European short-break markets.

The extraordinarily successful exhibitions held earlier this year – Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Life in Drawings’ at the Millennium Gallery and Phlegm’s ‘Mausoleum of the Giants’ – demonstrate the strength of the city’s cultural calendar. Tourists from as far afield as Bradford and Brazil came to Sheffield.

The city’s heritage is an indelible part of Sheffield’s story and plays an important part in the tourism experience.

The independent cafes and restaurants – often in repurposed industrial buildings –play their part, helping to showcase our heritage at the same time as providing their own quality experience in a modern day city.