Express & Star

The Halls and Mander Centre investment driving more visitors to Wolverhampton

A strategy to bring more day and overnight visitors into Wolverhampton has been outlined at the city's tenth annual business breakfast event.

Crowds at The Halls in Wolverhampton – but there are not enough restaurants or hotels

The ultimate aim is to make the city a top 20 destination for visitors in the UK.

More than 200 people attended the event in the Civic at the Halls on Thursday.

The Halls has attracted 50,000 people since it reopened in May, and Steve Homer, UK chief executive of AEG Presents which runs the venue, said it was on course for 100,000 for this year.

"The opening six months were bigger than expectations," he added.

Mr Homer said there had been an exceptionally large influx of people from other parts of the country prepared to travel to the West Midlands for the first shows at the Civic and Wulfrun halls.

"They know now that we have one of the best facilities in the UK to present a show," he said.

"The response from agents, managers and artists when they walked through the doors was 'My God, this is incredible' compared to what it was'.

"For people who had never been here before there was sometimes a jaw dropping response," said Mr Homer.

He said the city economy was being helped by people visiting restaurants, bars and cafes before performances.

The visitor economy of the city was up 21 per cent to £400 million in 2022, and Wolverhampton City Council chief executive Tim Johnson said the city had attracted 10 million visitors last year – 92 per cent of them day visitors.

"We now need to increase the number of overnight stays which are worth a huge amount to the local economy," he said.

"This requires positive and constructive collaboration between public and private sector partners.

"The council has a key role to play in stimulating that by investment in infrastructure and the cultural offer," he explained.

Part of that will involve developing a local destination management partnership.

Mr Johnson said bringing The Halls – a much-loved venue – back to life had been an important step.

"It was a huge challenge and required huge investment, but it will now be important for decades to come for the city economy," he stressed.