THE North West Tourist Board's annual conference turned out to be something of a curate's egg with the industry set for some challenging years ahead.
On the one hand, tourism is expected to grow markedly with 25,000 more jobs needed locally but on the other, rural areas like Cheshire could lose income due to the legacy of foot-and-mouth.
It remains a mixed picture at the moment although the global position is clear; tourism, leisure pursuits and spending power are all on the march. The regions not equipped to cope with demand will be those that fall by the wayside.
The conference at Tatton Park in Cheshire - itself badly hampered by the effects of the disease - was told that the UK tourist economy at pounds 64bn dwarfs others such as agriculture or the automotive industry.
But key speaker Alan Britten of the England Tourism Council warned that the government's complacency in this area was unsettling:
"This is one of the surefire growth areas and the government must get the message that helping our industry will help achieve their own social and economic objectives."
He said the targets include a coherent e-business and technology system to deliver the information people need, improved accommodation standards and better skills amongst the workforce.
Mr Britten went on: "We have had an unbelievably bad year with footand-mouth but that also exposed our deficiencies in having unreliable information."
Although Cheshire has suffered a miserable year, neighbour Merseyside strengthened its position with a number of initiatives drawing people in, particularly in the short break market.
Chris Brown, director of operations at the Mersey Partnership, said: "Tourism is very important and represents one of the fastest growing sectors on Merseyside bringing in over pounds 600m a year and supporting 22,000 jobs.
"Half a dozen hotels have opened in Liverpool alone in the past two years to underpin the increasing demand."
Liverpool's bid to become the UK Capital of Culture is driving forward the city's tourism ambitions, claims Sir Bob Scott.
The bid figurehead said that efforts so far had helped propel the city from a place of departure to a place of destination.
At the North West Tourist Board's annual conference he explained: "I believe the Liverpool bid is already helping change its position as a city to that of a destination. And in the city itself it is being realised that tourism is the name of the game and that the intention must be to become a serious player.
"Our strapline is 'The World In One City', representing the diversity to be found there and it also means world-class and Liverpool has led the world in a number of fields. Indeed its reputation abroad is greater than that at home.
"We also have a theme and that is yesterday, today and tomorrow.
The heritage and past speaks for itself, today is improving and tomorrow will be dazzling.
"I would point to the Glasgow experience which was Capital of Culture in 1990, from which time its current renaissance can be traced."
He said the fact that an Objective 1 area was in the running was a message that should resound, adding: "Let's face it, other cities like Leeds and Manchester have had nothing like the difficulties Liverpool has had to contend with."
He also pointed out that Liverpool had super almost hidden jewels such as the Walker Art Gallery, recognised as one of the foremost galleries in the UK.
Spreading the gospel about the city will not only help the culture bid but would drawn many more people in, Sir Bob concluded.
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