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Leicester wins major funding for campaign to attract international visitors in 2016

A Midlands-based tourism partnership comprising Leicester Shire Promotions, Shakespeare’s England and Marketing Birmingham, has successfully bid for £174,000 of funding from VisitBritain, through the GREAT UK Challenge Fund.

The grant will support a major ‘Shakespeare 2016’ tourism campaign aimed at attracting visitors from North America and other key international markets to the East and West Midlands.

Next year marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death. The campaign will use this milestone to celebrate and promote the region's connections with Shakespeare and his literary works. Leicester Shire Promotions and its regional partners will deliver PR and marketing activity, as well as an engagement programme targeting oversees school and university groups, in order to globally showcase the heritage sites, attractions and world-class curriculum linked to the playwright.

Martin Peters, Chief Executive of Leicester Shire Promotions, said: "We're delighted to be working in partnership with our colleagues in the Midlands to promote this major milestone. We have always recognised that our visitors enjoy exploring beyond boundaries, enjoying the breath of attractions on offer across the region. We are proud to be playing a leading role in this new way of thematic working.

"The joint offer is a particularly strong one for international visitors and the award of funding from VisitBritain means that we can really extend the reach of the campaign.

“The reinterment of King Richard III in Leicester Cathedral in March 2015 drew global media interest. Visitors have come from all over the world to witness the fascinating story of the search and discovery of the King's remains and we're confident that by promoting the obvious connections with the literary works of Shakespeare, we can build on this interest from international visitors.”

Gemma Goddon, Marketing & Communications Manager at Shakespeare’s England, said: “We are currently preparing for one of England’s most landmark celebrations in recent history. With the support from the Great UK Challenge Fund, we’ll once again see the Midlands working together to harness the power of Shakespeare’s heritage to attract visitors, drive business and boost the local economy.

“Stratford-upon-Avon is home to Shakespeare’s five family houses including his Birthplace and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Visitors can also enjoy the contemporary works of the world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Company on stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatres.

“The legacy of William Shakespeare has been drawing tourists from the worlds of literature, theatre, and academia for well over 200 years. We must now capitalise on this milestone anniversary and provide a memorable experience throughout 2016 for visitors from across the globe.”

Emma Gray, Director of Marketing and Communications at Visit Birmingham, said: “This is a huge boost for Birmingham, and a fantastic opportunity to work in close partnership with the surrounding Midlands regions, to develop the enormous potential Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary presents for both the local and national economy.

“From Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford, to the Library of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Collection comprising more than 44,000 books – the Midlands boasts a number of distinguished heritage sites associated with the world’s most famous playwright. Targeting both domestic and key international markets, 2016 presents an invaluable opportunity to capitalise on the region’s rich ancestry; reinforcing its status as a global destination for heritage tourism.”

Targeting both travel trade and consumer audiences, the 2016 campaign will focus on North America but will also promote travel from other key international markets including Brazil, China, France, Germany, Gulf States and India, as part of a wider VisitBritain tourism campaign.