The world prefers Manchester to Birmingham – at least when it comes to tourism


Birmingham may be England’s Second City, but it lags behind Manchester when it comes to international visitors, according to data obtained from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS looked at overseas travellers visiting UK’s 50 most popular cities for the year of 2014. And while Birmingham was visited by approximately 944,000 people last year, Manchester gets over 5% more – just short of a million.

The difference is starker when it comes to tourism: in 2014, 174,000 people visited Birmingham for a holiday. But Manchester recorded 250,000 tourists.

But when it comes to tours and European visitors Birmingham does out-perform its northern rival:

  • More than one in ten of Birmingham’s tourists come specifically on tours of the area, compared to one in twelve of holidaymakers visiting Manchester.
  • And in 2014, Birmingham was visited by 84,000 more Europeans than Manchester.

David Jones, spokesperson for the Birmingham Airport has said that the launch of a new American Airline flight connecting Birmingham and New York John F. Kennedy Airport is expected to draw more tourists from USA into the Midlands.

David Winstanley, Chief Operating Officer for Birmingham Airport added that:

“This service will not only help to build on the region’s success in attracting trading with America, but with so many wonderful places on our doorstep such as Stratford-up-Avon, Warwick and the Cotswolds, we’re confident that this new flight will draw in even more tourists and business to the region.”

On average, people stay longer in Manchester than in Birmingham…

Manchester appeals to a younger demographic – a preferred destination for those aged 44 and under. Birmingham was more popular with those aged 45 and above.

And unless you’re visiting from North America, it’s likely that you’ll stay longer in Manchester than you would in Birmingham: tourists from Europe are likely to spend about 5 days in Manchester and 4 days in Birmingham.

Other countries from around the world spent, on average, 14 days in Manchester, a day more than in Birmingham. North Americans spent 10 days in Birmingham and about 6 days in Manchester.

…And also spend more money there

People will spend different amounts of money when visiting each of the cities. There’s a difference of £204 between what a North American tourist spent in Birmingham – £724 and the £520 spent in Manchester.

Yet Birmingham appears to be cheaper for Europe and other parts of the world outside North America. On average, Europeans spent £90 more, and travellers from other parts of the world spent £194 more in Manchester than in Birmingham.

The total amount of money spent by tourists in 2014 is bigger for Manchester than for Brum. Manchester is ahead of Birmingham with £11 million brought in by North American tourists, £45 million by European tourists and £119 million by travellers from other parts of the world.

The tourism boards VisitBirmingham and VisitManchester refused to give a comment on the situation. VisitManchester said:

“The whole two city debate is something we don’t like to get into.”


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  1. You get more visitors to Manchester because they fly from the larger and more connected Manchester Airport and are therefore ‘just passing through’ Manchester rather than visiting as tourists….that is why Birmingham lags behind plus Manchester somehow has got the accolade of being where Britain’s industrial revolution started which led to the modern world….in truth all Brummies know that the Industrial Revolution started in Birmingham with the Midlands Enlightenment and the Birmingham Lunar Society….whose steam engines powered Manchester’s cotton mills? Why Boulton and Watt’s from Birmingham I rest my case as Birmingham always hides its light under a bushel whereas Manchester always shouts the loudest and as we all know if you say something often and loudly folk will start to believe it….that is where the urban myth that Manchester is the font of the industrial revolution comes from…..

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