As Shrewsbury Folk Festival enjoys a sell-out weekend, tourism bosses say it has been one of the best years ever seen for visitors flocking to the county.
Tens of thousands of people are enjoying a weekend of music and activities at the Greenhous West Mids Showground in Shrewsbury.
Such is the reputation for the event that today and tomorrow has been sold out for weeks, with just a handful of day tickets available for Monday.
Shropshire’s mixture of set-piece events and attractions has made it a popular destination and one where visitors who have been here once tend to return.
New figures show the jewel in the crown of the county town, The Quarry in Shrewsbury, now sees about 160,000 visitors a month, and Shrewsbury Town Council’s clerk Helen Ball has said council staff also see international visitors in the town daily.
She said: “We have staff based at The Quarry, the castle and some who wander around and are based in the Market Hall. They regularly talk to foreign visitors as we have a lot of tours that take place and tours on a Wednesday run by the mayor in the castle grounds.
“I was in St Mary’s Church last weekend for the Big Town Plan exhibition and there were a lot of foreign visitors who came in there.
“It’s getting to a stage where it’s more of a visitor attraction and is starting to punch its weight with places like Chester and Stratford.
“It’s had more of a national profile of late after a lot of the BID’s work. You get more coach parties than we’ve ever had, and it’s not just in the summer it’s every single day of the week.”
Ms Ball said a lot of people have been staying to holiday in the county, rather than hopping on a plane this summer.
“Certainly this summer has been busy as it’s been hotter in Shrewsbury than mainland Spain at times,” she added.
“In the Quarry for example, we’ve had new counters and there have been about 160,000 visitors here a month.
“You only have to look at the splash park and the play area to see it’s absolutely rammed full of kids.”
Visitors have been exploring the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’s more prominent sites, while residents have been hunting out the hidden gems.
Phil Holden, the Shropshire Hills AONB partnership manager said: “What is always described is the way we’ve got this soft landscape of hills, they can be challenging but they appeal to quite a wide variety of walkers from young families to older couples.
“It’s great for the economy of the smaller places around the hills, visitors are really important.
“We are aware of more visitor numbers in certain places such as Carding Mill Valley and The Wrekin, and residents find it easier to find the more out of the way places.
“Shropshire can be a bit of a hidden gem and I think that’s what brings people back.
“And we are aware of people ‘staycationing’ in England which has been growing throughout the past few years.”
New figures released today show that, as well as benefitting from staycation visitors, more people are flying into Shropshire and the West Midlands.
The Office for National Statistics says the regions attracted more international visits last year than ever before.
The region welcomed a record 2.3 million visits last year – a six per cent increase on 2016, as highlighted by the latest International Passenger Survey (IPS) report.
The West Midlands experienced the second highest growth in international visits of all English regions, behind only the North West.
It also secured the highest proportion of business visits of all UK destinations, with two out of five, or 39 per cent, visits to the area for this purpose.
The figures for 2017 say events like the final V Festival at Weston Park, as well as urban events like Birmingham Half Marathon, were among those bringing people into the region.
In 2017, the West Midlands also played host to major international sporting fixtures including the ICC Champions Trophy at Edgbaston Stadium and Diamond League athletics.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “Tourism plays a vital role in the region’s economy, supporting thousands of jobs and delivering inclusive growth. It also helps to showcase the West Midlands internationally.”
Nicola Hewitt, of the West Midlands Growth Company, added: “These figures are proof not only of the popularity of the West Midlands’ leisure tourism offer, but its standing as an important global destination for business and corporate events.
“Through our work with VisitBritain and partners including Birmingham Airport, we are promoting the region as widely as ever. By targeting markets with the potential to attract even more visitors, such as India, China and Germany, We want to build on the West Midlands’ positive reputation.”