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5) The Importance of The Beatles to Tourism in Liverpool

"What have The Beatles ever done for Liverpool?"

This is a question journalists and even locals have often asked over the years and it is only recently that local businesses and councillors have realised what a valuable asset The Beatles are to the City.

The Beatles are the most extraordinary musical phenomenon of the 20th century and as a result Liverpool has become synonymous with the names of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

This has spawned a tourist industry to deal with hundreds of thousands of visitors who flock to the city simply because it is the birthplace of The Beatles. In 1985, the Merseyside County Council's market research indicated that 34% of those people who came to Liverpool for pleasure, and stayed in a hotel, came for that very reason.

Visitors spend their money in bars, restaurants and shops, which is a real boost to the local economy. The annual Beatles Festival every August typically attracts tourists from over 30 countries.

The Beatles Story Exhibition, daily Magical Mystery Tour, Cavern Club and Beatles Shop are all used to dealing with fans from all over the world on a daily basis.

There are 94 people directly employed in The Beatles industry. These are real permanent jobs in a growth industry. But still some Scousers (Scouser being the colloquial term for those born in Liverpool) say: "So what? They left Liverpool in 1963. The Beatles themselves have never done anything positive to help this area."

This betrayal theory is alarming for the simple fact that it is just not true. The Beatles have never forgotten their roots. How could they? One of the major reasons for their initial success was their endearing Liverpool sense of humour and irreverence.

Academics have always argued that many other people played such an integral part in The Beatles' success that they could be regarded as 'the fifth Beatle'.

Pete Best, Stu Sutcliffe, Neil Aspinall, Brian Epstein, George Martin and Billy Preston have all at one time or another been labelled as such. However, the fifth Beatle, was and always will be, the city of Liverpool itself.

Even with their songs they frequently paid homage to their roots (Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, Menlove Avenue, Cast Iron Shore, Liverpool Lime Street to name a few). But, more importantly, over the years, The Beatles have consistently and directly involved themselves in their home town. Strawberry Field Children's Home was given a cheque for over £100,000, which was used to build an annexe called Lennon Court. It is here that disadvantaged youths are housed once they leave the children's home.

The University of Liverpool received more than £500,000 from the Lennon estate after the Lennon Concert in May 1990. This money has been invested in a trust and the interest accrued is to provide scholarships for local students. Last year, 20 students benefited from these scholarships and, as it is only the interest that is used, the money will never run out.

The McCartney Concert, in June 1990, was also staged to help local charities. Those which benefited included Alder Hey Children's Hospital (Paul was president of the hospital's 75th Birthday Appeal) and local women's organisations for the homeless, one parent families and victims of violence. Paul was actively involved with saving his old school, the Liverpool Institute. In an open letter to the Liverpool Echo Paul first mooted his idea for a Fame-type school at the Institute.

This led to the formulation of an ambitious £15m project, LIPA (The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts), which opened its doors to its first students in January 1996 and is now a thriving institute of higher education.

Paul is particularly interested in his own roots, showing the same sort of nostalgia that John was experiencing shortly before his death.

Paul's childhood memories formed the basis of the Liverpool Oratorio premiered at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. It is less publicly recognised that in September 1979, Paul helped to save the Royal Court Theatre, which was threatened by closure. He performed for four consecutive nights at the theatre, donating his fees to the rescue fund.

Liverpool is currently enjoying the benefit of a £37.5m grant, which was awarded by the Department of Environment over a five-year period. Liverpool's application for funding was called City Challenge and the accompanying video presentation was aided by an appearance by Paul, who highlighted the reasons why the city should be awarded such a grant. Paul has been described by City Challenge as "part of the team who helped to bring about much-needed physical regeneration of the area".

Did you know that Liverpool Playhouse and Everyman Theatre both had record-breaking runs with plays based on the life of John Lennon?

Did you know Paul and later Ringo have both completed videos entitled Going Home, featuring extensive footage of Liverpool?

Are you aware that there are specially trained Beatles guides in the city who are paid to take tourists around the city?

Can you believe that the daily Beatles Tour outsells the City of Liverpool sight-seeing tour by ten to one?

And did you know that George Harrison, after reading in the Echo about his old football youth team in Speke who were about to fold, came to their rescue by providing new kit, balls and the money to pay for pitch hire?

Just what have The Beatles ever done for Liverpool? This is a daft question if ever there was one. The Beatles may have left Liverpool, but Liverpool will never leave them.

  • In terms of a natural tourism asset, The Beatles are without doubt the most valuable. They have provided Liverpool with a product that can be sold world-wide. The Beatles have become to Liverpool what Shakespeare is to Stratford.
  • The Beatles do not just belong to the folklore of Liverpool, but to that of Britain, USA, Japan, etc. and in that sense they are not just of interest to Beatle fans, but to visitors in general.
  • The Beatles are of continual interest to the world's media who in turn visit and report on Liverpool. In the three months prior to the release of The Beatles Anthology in 1995, Cavern City Tours alone dealt with 75 international TV crews. This enables the Tourism Board to introduce these people to the other facets of tourism on Merseyside. Many other towns, cities and tourist boards do not enjoy such an advantage.
  • Visitors who come to Liverpool for The Beatles can also find out more about the city. For those who take the two hour Beatles Tour they not only see The Beatles sites, but are also given a very well balanced introduction to the fabric of Liverpool and its suburbs.
  • In economic terms many Beatle visitors tend to stay overnight and thus spend more money than day-trippers. Souvenir sales, tours, memorabilia and bed-nights create considerable income.
  • The Beatles phenomenon has led to the creation of tourism services and an infrastructure which can be used in other areas of promoting tourism. Without The Beatles the general growth of Liverpool as a tourist/visitor destination would have been much slower. Liverpool as the birthplace of The Beatles has given credibility to tourism on Merseyside that it may have otherwise lacked.
  • Nothing can change the fact that Liverpool is the birthplace of The Beatles, therefore there is that permanence of interest, added to which Paul and Ringo still perform and make records therefore there is a constant re-kindling of interest from which The Beatle industry in Liverpool can derive benefits.

Beatle anniversaries will also continue to crop up, which creates world-wide attention, without Liverpool having to market itself, it's done naturally by the world's media. In addition, events and celebrations can be organised in Liverpool to tie in with specific anniversaries.

The Beatles have always portrayed a positive image of the City and their own personalities have highlighted the friendly nature of people in Liverpool. Nowhere else in the world can compete with Liverpool as the birthplace of The Beatles.

Having said all that you cannot just attach The Beatles name to something and expect it to be a money-spinning success. The industry must aim to give first class service at all time at a competitive price.


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