Team Birmingham's approach to tourism


Birmingham City Council is a 49 per cent shareholder in Marketing Birmingham. This public-private partnership, established in 1982, promotes the city as a leading global event city, knowledge capital and tourist destination.

Key lessons for other councils

  • The success of Marketing Birmingham demonstrates how important place marketing is to place making and place management.
  • It demonstrates how a cross-cutting approach to marketing the visitor economy creates a virtuous circle, delivering local authority objectives and achieving ongoing support from the private sector.
  • The company restructure in 2005 demonstrated that a strong management team and a focus on delivery is the recipe for success.
  • Place marketing and regeneration can and should be closely aligned.


Birmingham has a population of one million and growing. Tourism is big business for Birmingham, attracting 28.6 million day visitors and 3.6 million overnight visitors each year. In 2008, tourism was estimated to be worth £4.6 million to the city and to account for 61,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs.

The city attracts leisure and business visitors and has a strong events and conference profile.

Birmingham uses ACORN to segment its markets and within the leisure markets

ACORN website

The city attracts mainly ABC1 pre- and post-family couples from the UK. Ireland and Holland are two of its priority short-haul markets and the city is also exploring the long-term opportunities of the emerging Chinese market.

Marketing Birmingham is the destination marketing organisation for the City of Birmingham. It is a not-for-profit public-private partnership. It is a membership organisation and funded primarily by Birmingham City Council and Advantage West Midlands (AWM) – the local regional development agency (RDA).

Marketing Birmingham website

The company is also supported by some 360 commercial members and ‘champions'. These range from bars, restaurants and hotels, to universities, accountancy firms and commercial property developers.

Marketing Birmingham's vision is to cement the city's position as a leading global event city, knowledge capital and international city of choice. It should deliver a world-class visitor experience and champion a city where tourism contributes to economic success.

Who was involved?

With all place marketing it is essential that the infrastructure and design of the city meets the needs of its target markets. Consequently, Marketing Birmingham works closely with a number of partners to develop world-class visitor information systems and services. Recent examples include:

  • Birmingham Know How – a training course aimed at developing the product knowledge and customer service skills of frontline staff
  • Interconnect – a cross-cutting design framework to improve the image, identity and user experience of the city for residents, businesses and visitors.

The aim is to improve the quality of the city's streetscape and the user experience to increase its competitiveness with other UK cities. The aim is to provide a legacy of high-quality products to be used in all city design services.

At a strategic level, Marketing Birmingham benefits from strong support from the council's leader and leader of the opposition. Both sit on the board. Marketing Birmingham also sits on the cultural partnership and executive for the local strategic partnership (LSP). It also helps deliver some elements of its activity.

The problems and how we tackled them

Regeneration and promotion of Birmingham's visitor economy are Marketing Birmingham's main priorities. The service level agreement (SLA) with Birmingham City Council is thus linked to the economic objectives of the city's corporate plan.

Marketing Birmingham also delivers on the ‘perceptions' key performance indicator (KPI) for the local area agreement (LAA). They also work to targets and outputs set by AWM, as part of their funding conditions.

Marketing Birmingham runs two principle tourism-related marketing campaigns – Visit Birmingham and Meet Birmingham. The main objectives of Visit Birmingham are to increase the number of visitors in the city, gain positive PR coverage and drive traffic to the Visit Birmingham website. Meet Birmingham was launched to help promote and develop local and regional business tourism. It also raises the profile of the city as an event destination.

Visit Birmingham website

Meet Birmingham website

Marketing Birmingham manages three visitor centres, including one at Birmingham International Airport, and a call centre to provide visitor information, accommodation bookings, tickets to cultural attractions and for onward travel. They also manage Birmingham Convention Bureau. The bureau services include an accommodation booking and venue location service for conferences and exhibitions.

Marketing Birmingham created a sales fund for major events that enabled the city to attract a number of events. These include Conservative and Labour party conferences and Rotary International. These events have strengthened Birmingham's position as a world-class city for hosting events.

Securing these major events also triggered Team Birmingham; a new partnership approach, led by Marketing Birmingham. Team Birmingham was set up in 2007 and is about bringing together all the organisations and interests involved with planning, delivering and managing major conferences.

This team comprises a wide range of players including retailers and the police. They work together in a focused and concentrated way and as a task and finish group. They come together at the bidding stage of a major event.

Marketing Birmingham also manages the marketing and communications for Birmingham Science City, working alongside the city's Universities to promote the city as a desirable destination for learning.

Marketing Birmingham has developed a conference and exhibitions sales strategy for the city. It has worked in partnership with the International Convention Centre (ICC) to develop a target list of approximately 30 international association conferences to attract to the city over the next five to 10 years. It is also working with the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) to develop a ‘top 100' events list that it wants to attract to the city in the next 10 years.

The council is now moving towards a ‘total place' approach to marketing Birmingham. The aim is to align resources, people, strategies and policy throughout the city. This avoids mixed messages for different audiences and tackles any lack of brand clarity. This approach has one challenge. While ‘visit' and ‘invest' messages sit well together, it is more difficult to include ‘live in' Birmingham messages within a single ‘wrapper'.

Outcomes and impact

Marketing Birmingham has achieved a shift in the city's perceptions with internal and external markets. Its cross-cutting remit means it remains high in the council's priorities, which provides the ongoing resources to deliver. In turn that helps retain and grow strong partnerships with the private sector.

Marketing Birmingham measures the impact of their activity and achieves a 12.5 to 1 return on investment from marketing activity and the major events fund. This represents £2 million expenditure on major events that delivers £25 million economic impact for the city.

The challenge for the future is to deliver on total place marketing for the city.

It is now working towards a total place approach to marketing for Birmingham that brings together resources, people and policy to further embed a public and private sector partnership approach to tourism. Its vision is driven by the role tourism plays in delivering economic success.


Hannah Sparrey

Related links: where to find out more

Birmingham City Council website

Jasper Carrott Official website – Birmingham-born comedian


24 September 2014

Useful links

A passion for excellence (PDF, 40 pages, 1.04MB large file)

A passion for excellence – one year on (PDF, 20 pages, 1.4MB large file)

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