Chesterfield’s heritage, location and sustainable transport links will all be utilised by the Visitor Economy Strategy, which sets out plans to boost tourism between now and 2027.
Sitting on the edge of the Peak District, with its history, unique architecture, hospitality offering and more, the town is well-placed to become a visitor destination.
Currently, 92% of visitors to Chesterfield are day visitors. The challenge is to convert more day visitors to overnight stays. According to tourism experts, converting just 5% of Chesterfield’s day visitors into overnight stays would transform the town’s visitor economy.
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Held remotely via Zoom and organised by Destination Chesterfield in conjunction with the Derbyshire Times, this month’s round table brought together key figures from the tourism sector and wider business community to discuss how we can encourage more people to visit, explore and stay in Chesterfield.
Taking part were:
AM – Anna Melton – Director, In the Works PR (Chair)
PStu – Paul Stuart – Head of Enterprise, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire)
MT – Mark Thurman – Managing Director, Casa Hotels Group
AN – Amy Noton – PR and Digital Content Manager, Marketing Peak District and Derbyshire
JK – Jo Kershaw – Director of Business Professional and Service Industries, Chesterfield College
MS – Matthew Southgate – Senior Economic Development Officer, Chesterfield Borough Council
PSte – Paul Steele – Managing Director, Junction Arts
MW – Michael Winstanley – Sales Manager, DoubleTree by Hilton Sheffield
IW – Isobel Wells – Regional Fundraiser Chesterfield and Derbyshire, Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice
SC – Samantha Collier – Head of Marketing, Master Debonair
The Chesterfield tourism strategy hopes to attract an additional 720,000 visitors a year by 2025. With 92% of visitors to Chesterfield currently being day visitors, how can we ensure more of them are converted to overnight stays?
MT – Chesterfield benefits from a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets. It’s about informing visitors to the area about the facilities before they come here. We need to make sure that, as hoteliers, we have good representation and visibility in partnership with everything that’s happening in and around the town. We also need to give people reasons to stay in Chesterfield and not just in our hotels.
AN – Collaborative working has got a huge role to play. Accommodation providers, food and drink businesses, attractions and activity and experience providers should work together to showcase to visitors just how much there is to see and do in the area.
MW – If we have events such as food markets, outdoor music festivals and cultural events happening, we can get day visitors to make a weekend of it when combined with hotels’ unique selling points. We have a spa on site, for example, so you could visit an event on the Saturday and enjoy a spa day on the Sunday.
PStu – We’ve got Bolsover Castle, Hardwick Hall, Chatsworth and many more fantastic destinations in the area. It’s great to have the accommodation here and it’s about working together to attract those visitors.
AN - Promoting the town as an all-year-round tourism destination is one of the biggest things we can do together. Chesterfield has so much to offer all visitors. Our all-weather year-round offer makes the destination so unique.
MS – We’re currently remodelling the Stephenson’s Memorial Hall which will expand the capacity at the theatre, increase accessibility and give the town a proper museum and art gallery. We are currently investing £27million in Chesterfield town centre. This is effectively a game changer for the town which will help us attract more people to visit and stay.
How can we encourage the Peak District visitors to stop and spend in Chesterfield, rather than just passing through?
PStu – We’ve got the Crooked Spire – there’s a lot of history here and it’s about coming together and promoting that. We need to keep pushing the Crooked Spire, historic market, great places to eat and all the other great things we have.
SC – We have one customer who comes up from Plymouth to see us because he’s such a fan of what we do. People will make that extra effort if you’ve got that strong offer. Part of the great work that the Chesterfield Champions group is doing is bringing us together with other independents in the area. How do we raise awareness to visitors that there are multiple independents they can visit when they come to Chesterfield?
AN – Things like digital itineraries, guides and blogs can be really valuable in educating visitors and inspiring them to explore. Day trippers spend an awful lot of time on their phones looking for things to do nearby, so having that online presence is key for Chesterfield’s businesses.
PStu – Alongside Destination Chesterfield and Chesterfield Borough Council, we have worked with over 100 businesses to help them improve their online presence and it’s really made a difference. Working together is a powerful tool and some of the stories that have come out of that project have been great to hear.
JK – I’ve only lived in Chesterfield the last couple of years so I see it from a relative newcomer. We’ve got a lot of parking spaces, a great hospitality offering and a lot of family friendly places to visit. I’d like to see us shouting about the town’s proximity to the Peak District but not getting too hung up on it as we’ve got access to a much wider range of things.
IW – I live in Sheffield, so I am a visitor every time I come into Chesterfield. I’ve been brought into the town through work but it has led me to see what else there is to explore here.
MW – I think a shuttle bus into other popular destinations like Bakewell and Chatsworth would be a great idea. We have a better parking offering that the small Peak District towns so if people are coming back here to their cars, I think they’d be more likely to spend more money in Chesterfield.
MS – We’ve got to have such a compelling offer here that they think they’re going to spend half a day here and half a day in the Peak District.
PSte – There needs to be more of an experience offer over and above retail in the town. Safe, welcoming spaces that can contain people in the early evening economy are important as is having a programme of activities that keeps people in the town. The development of the market square is certainly taking positive steps towards that.
As we attract more visitors to Chesterfield, how do we ensure that the additional traffic doesn’t compromise the town’s ambitions to become carbon neutral?
AN – One of the most popular sections on the Visit Peak District website is the area for car-free itineraries. Chesterfield has amazing public transport links and we’ve got some huge cities nearby that offer those great links too. Promoting how easy it is to use Chesterfield for a short break is key. Being a sustainable destination isn’t just about visitors get here, it’s about how they get around whilst they’re here too.
MW – There is good train accessibility in Chesterfield and there is also an option for a shuttle bus and cycle hire.
MT – Getting the train to anywhere in the country is actually a really expensive mode of transport. People will still use their cars because of that, so it’s important that we get them to stay for longer. We also have to make sure the town has a lot of places to charge electric vehicles, I think that’s really important.
MS – If we turn more day visitors into overnight visitors fundamentally you do less carbon miles. We’re a central location and are the main eastern railway for people coming into the Peak District. If we can use our public transport links to get people easily into Bakewell, Matlock and other places, this enables visitors to leave their cars behind.
Successful local centres are about much more than shopping. They’re about enjoyment, creativity, learning, socialising, culture, health and wellbeing and engagement. How can the regeneration plans for Market Square and New Square help meet the demands for this 21st century visitor’s economy?
PStu – People want to see something unusual and something different. People are going to be looking to the UK for holidays more and more and want something different for their short breaks. Having suitable places for all weather is also important. Chesterfield isn’t going to be one of those places that’s always sunny like some parts of the world are.
AN – Having an arts and cultural offer also helps with that all-year-round offer and encourages people to come into the town centre.
PSte – There are some really good examples of other towns and cities that have re-energised their town centres through arts and culture. The Stockton International Riverside Festival which is held in Stockton-on-Tees started in 1988 as a very small event. It’s now grown to a four-day event and attracts artists and visitors from all over the world. I’ve visited Stockton-on-Tees twice and both times were for that festival.
MS – One of the consultants that helped develop the Visitor Economy Strategy had not been to Chesterfield before, so came with fresh eyes. He couldn’t believe that we have got two large open spaces in the town centre with Market Square and New Square. The current arrangement of the stalls limits the use of these spaces so we will be removing some of the stalls in the middle to create new event spaces as part of the Revitalising the Heart of Chesterfield project.
JK – It would be amazing to bring that street food vibe into Chesterfield in those squares. It brings a lot of young people in and is very much on trend. It’s a great opportunity for people to test out small food and drink units that quite often go on to expand.
MW – Box City in Shoreditch in London does really well. I think we could use that as a model in Chesterfield for people to test out new and exciting products.
MT – We’ve got The Glass Yard that has recently opened which has the Batch House within it. It’s important that we support those new businesses. There’s definitely been and move to try and branch into that more modern way of dining and socialising. We, as Champions of Chesterfield, need to be eating and drinking at these places and shouting about it to our family and friends for it to have that ripple effect.