Following the European Capital of Culture year in 2008 there was a feeling within Liverpool that the city had failed to capitalise on what was a terrific twelve months and lost the momentum that had been generated.
Through 2009 and 2010 it wasn’t that nothing was happening, but it all seemed a little half hearted and second rate in comparison to what had gone before.
However, during the past twenty four months nobody could accuse Liverpool of lacking the courage to back its convictions of putting the city back on the map nationally and internationally – and genuinely embracing its new found status as a visitor destination.
The Shanghai Expo success was quickly followed by the decision to open a Liverpool Embassy in London. This initiative has delivered for the city and for the city’s businesses. The next big ticket item came in March this year, when the Global Entrepreneurship Congress came to Liverpool, along with headline act Sir Richard Branson.
All of these projects have cost Liverpool City Council money at a time when cash is tight. But Joe Anderson and his team took the calculated risk of investing in these premier ideas – and they have all paid off.
However, the £1.5m investment that brought Sea Odyssey to Liverpool last week, attracting over 400,000 people to the city and boosting the local economy by over £20m is perhaps the most spectacular success since 2008 yet.
Hotels were fully booked, you could not get in any city centre restaurant without a half hour wait, coffee shops were packed to the rafters – and toy shops reported better sales last weekend than they enjoyed at Christmas. It was a truly remarkable three day event that will live long in the memory of all who witnessed it.
There was also the additional benefit of Liverpool featuring very positively on national news and arts programmes, and thousands of column inches being written about the city right across the globe.
As I have said Sea Odyssey was only the latest in an impressive series of profile raising initiatives that brand Liverpool has delivered. But somehow Sea Odyssey felt different. Such was the scale of the event, the universal celebration of what was an amazing show, and the unprecedented rave reviews that it received afterwards, that it feels like a game changer to me. ‘Liverpool is the place to be’ was a phrase repeated time and again in the press, on the TV and on the streets of the city.
Liverpool is now a genuine destination city. Tourism is part of our offer. We are finally starting to take advantage again of the city’s greatest asset – the Mersey. And, as Liverpool Vision gets ready to unleash ‘Marketing Liverpool’ and another wave of what will be equally impressive occasions, Liverpool will continue its modernisation and renaissance in some style.