'Chesterfield has its foot on the ladder of being world class'
Chesterfield has seen a record number of visitors - boosting the local economy by Â£175million.
The Chesterfield Investment Summit - which took place at Casa Hotel on Wednesday morning - heard that 3.7 million people visited the borough in 2017, a rise of 5.1 per cent on 2016. This compares with an average 1.3 per cent increase across the rest of Derbyshire.
The year saw tourism contribute Â£175.21m to the Chesterfield economy, a 6.9 per cent rise on 2016.
As a result, the visitor economy sector supported 2,165 full-time equivalent jobs in Chesterfield, an increase of 4.8 per cent on 2016. This compares with a 2.5 per cent rise across Derbyshire.
The 60-metre observation wheel, which was situated in Chesterfield town centre for a month in the spring, was enjoyed by 40,000 people, the meeting was told.
Huw Bowen, Chesterfield Borough Council's chief executive, said: "With the Peak District National Park on our doorstep, Chesterfield has long been a convenient place to visit but the fact we see so many people returning to visit us shows we have a lot to offer in our own right.
"With attractions such as the world-famous Crooked Spire, the traditional open-air market, two theatres offering major shows and plays, Chesterfield Museum, Revolution House and Barrow Hill Roundhouse, it's no wonder people choose to visit Chesterfield.
"This is great news for our local economy and we will continue to organise regular events to encourage people to visit the borough and, while they are here, take advantage of the many shops, cafés, restaurants and bars we have on offer here.
"I think it is easy to take what you have on your doorstep for granted but when I talk to visitors they are always very complimentary about Chesterfield and what it has to offer.
"These latest figures back that up and show how important tourism is to our economy."
Mr Bowen added: "It is very much a time of growth for the town and borough.
"However, as a council we remain committed to the premise that the growth we generate must be inclusive and that local people must benefit in terms of jobs and business opportunities."
James Berresford, chair of the Derbyshire Culture, Heritage, Arts and Tourism Board, said: "Chesterfield has its foot on the ladder of being world class and is on track to transform its visitor economy - it must focus on creating the distinctive, unique and special.
"Tourists today want experiences.
"We need to focus on the unique and distinctive things we have like the market and the Crooked Spire to stand out from the crowd.
"They are a wonderful local experience reflecting the character of the town."
Work on key developments progressing well
The meeting heard updates on the borough's major generation schemes.
Adam Hearld, of Jomast Developments Ltd, said work is progressing well to transform Chesterfield's former Co-op building into a 92-room Premier Inn hotel - which is due to open early next year - as part of the Northern Gateway project.
Marketing is now beginning to attract businesses to occupy the restaurant and bar spaces on the ground floor and the gym in the basement.
Meanwhile, work to build a new multi-storey car park at Saltergate started last week while a planning application will soon be submitted for a new enterprise centre on part of the Donut car park.
Rupert Carr, of Birchall Properties - the company behind the Peak Resort development in Unstone - also provided delegates with an update on the ambitious scheme.
A council spokesperson said: "Peak Resort will have a range of accommodation to cover all requirements from hostels and chalets to high end hotels alongside a range of leisure attractions.
"The aim is to attract visitors, particularly cyclists and walkers, to the 300-acre site and then encourage them to visit the surrounding area including Chesterfield and the Peak District National Park.
"The infrastructure including a new roundabout, bridleways and fencing around the site is completed.
"The next phase will see a university campus, a gateway building, a four-star spa hotel, a five-star lodge development and a David Lloyd adventure centre built in 2019 to open in 2020."
Thanks to the Northern Gateway, Peak Resort and Chesterfield Waterside projects, more than 2,500 beds will be added to the borough's accommodation offering over the next 36 months.
Peter Swallow, chair of Destination Chesterfield, added: "Young people need to raise their aspirations and skill up ahead of HS2 arriving in Chesterfield and the opening of Peak Resort to ensure that they and the town makes the most of the opportunities that these schemes will bring."