Selling the North to the world

“Friendly”, “Down-to-earth” and “Hospitable” are just some of the attributes which can be used to help maximise the North’s attraction to international visitors, according to a panel of experts.

The session was led by Michael Taylor – head of regional affairs – at Manchester Metropolitan University.

He was joined by Collette Roche, chief operating officer at Manchester United Football Club, James Mason, chief executive for Welcome to Yorkshire, Sheona Southern, managing director at Marketing Manchester and Kerry Thomas – head of marketing – Blackpool Cluster – Merlin Entertainments Group.

They agreed that while the North has a high quality and diverse range of assets ready to draw people in from outside the UK, it is not always easy to brand these attractions under a single northern banner.

Southern said it helps that the North has become such a go-to destination for film and drama producers, adding the shift to this region by the BBC and Channel 4 was helping to “break down barriers” and putting more regional voices on television.

Roche said Manchester United’s vast following across the world gave the city a head-start with raising its global profile.

“Someone once told me the economic value of football in Manchester is equivalent to having the Olympic Games here every four years,” she said.

Thomas said: “For me the North is seen as many different heritage aspects. It’s quite disparate and rarely do people see the North as one joint offering.

“So while people might come for a couple of nights to Manchester for a football match, they don’t necessarily have an itinerary of all the other great things there are to see and do.

“We need to find categories where there is cross-over between the different areas where we live and work.”

Roche agreed, stating: “Having a single strategy and a joined up approach is really what we need.

“And if we want to position ourselves as ‘The North’ we have to let something go. So that we’re happy being northern rather than being Mancunian or from Yorkshire.”

Mason referred to the fact that both Bradford and Lancashire are bidding for the 2025 title of UK City of Culture.

“It’s an opportunity to attract an international audience to the North,” he said. “We should champion this and it’s about complementing each other rather than competing.”

The panel was asked how important good transport connections are in terms of knitting the region together.

Southern pointed out that direct flights to Manchester Airport from foreign destinations mean international visitors can and do spend far longer in the North when they come to the UK. “It’s that direct connectivity which gives us these new markets,” she added.

Mason said accessibility was important, noting that even though the Yorkshire Dales is seen as quintessentially Yorkshire, it is a difficult place to visit for a family living in Bradford without their own car.


Invest North is a one-day virtual conference bringing together more than 500 people including business and policy leaders to set the agenda for what comes next in the North.

The event has been curated by and backed by a broad coalition of organisations spanning the public and private sectors, led by EY, Squire Patton Boggs, Influential, and Impact Data Metrics.

Find out more here