4.3. Visitor economy

Bradford's cultural diversity fuels tourism, contributing £696m annually; poised for resilience post-pandemic, with City of Culture anticipation.


Visitor economy

Bradford district is rich in cultural assets that attract a diverse range of visitors. The National Science and Media Museum houses some of the world’s most significant collections of photography, cinematography and television. The Bradford Industrial Museum showcases the city’s industrial heritage through exhibits that cover textile manufacturing, printing, and engineering.

The Alhambra Theatre is a notable example of Edwardian architecture and has played a significant role in the city’s cultural scene since opening in 1914. Bradford’s designation as the UNESCO City of Film is a testament to its cultural assets. As the first-ever designated UNESCO Creative City for film, Bradford has a long and illustrious history in film production and has played host to numerous film and television productions. The district also hosts several film festivals throughout the year, attracting both local and international audiences. Other key visitor attractions linked to the district’s heritage include Saltaire and particularly Salts Mill with its link to David Hockney, and Haworth with the Bronte Parsonage Museum and other Bronte links.

Bradford district also boasts a vibrant and diverse arts scene, with galleries and creative spaces showcasing the work of local and international artists. For example, the Cartwright Hall Art Gallery hosts exhibitions that celebrate Bradford’s diverse communities and cultural heritage. Meanwhile, Kala Sangam provides a platform for South Asian artists to showcase their work and engage with audiences. There are also many regular nationally significant events and festivals in Bradford that help boost Bradford’s profile and visitor economy.

The last major piece of research on Bradford’s visitor economy was conducted in 2016. This showed that at that time, the tourism industry in Bradford was worth an estimated £656m a year to the district’s economy and supported over 13,500 jobs in 2016 (Bradford Council, 2018). The total spending by visitors was up by 10% and the number of tourism jobs was up by 4% from 2015. An estimated 2.25 million visitor nights were spent in the district in 2016 as well as approximately 11.6 million day trips. The report also revealed that Bradford saw an increase in visits from overseas tourists, especially from China, India and Pakistan.

More recent data gathered for the City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council shows that culture is an increasingly significant factor in the Bradford district‘s visitor economy. The district attracts 12 million visitors annually, which generates 14,000 jobs and has an economic impact of £696m. Currently, 54% of visitors come for cultural purposes. Despite this, the visitor economy has remained static. The arts, culture, and heritage sectors have the potential to drive growth through investment and improved promotion.

The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the district’s economy, particularly on sectors such as hospitality, leisure, culture and retail that heavily rely on tourism and visitors. The report estimates that the district’s economy contracted by 9.9% in 2020, resulting in a loss of approximately £1.2 billion in output. The report also states that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits increased by 88% between March and December 2020, with the highest increases in areas with high concentrations of tourism-related businesses.

The impact of the pandemic on tourism in Bradford is not unique. According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), parts of the UK that rely on tourism have been most affected by the Covid-19 jobs crisis, as many people who began claiming universal credit at the outset of the pandemic were still doing so six months later. The ONS also reports that turnover in travel and tourism businesses fell to its lowest level on record in May 2020, at 26.4% of February 2020 levels. The ONS also estimates that visits to the UK by overseas residents decreased by 73% in 2020 compared with 2019, while visits abroad by UK residents decreased by 76% over the same period.

Despite the recent challenging circumstances, there are signs of resilience and recovery in the tourism and visitor sector in Bradford. Looking ahead, Bradford’s designation as UK City of Culture in 2025 is expected to bring significant benefits to the district by 2030.

4.1. Creative and cultural industries

This topic covers the creative economy in Bradford and draws on a range of sources which can be found in Appendix 1 in the full report.

4.2. Bradford’s artists and producers

Bradford harbors abundant creative talent. The Bradford Producing Hub annually surveys local artists and producers, unveiling their endeavors and challenges.

4.4. Gaps in the data

Current gaps in our knowledge about Bradford’s visitor and creative economy

4.5. Opportunities

In Bradford’s evolving creative landscape, arts organisations and artists wield significant potential to bridge existing gaps and fortify the city’s cultural economy.

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