A friend asked me recently whether I thought Manchester, England, was "safe to go to," given the high-profile terrorist attack during an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in May 2017. I increasingly find this kind of question impossible to answer, given the mind-numbing frequency of violent events here and abroad, but while I wouldn't hesitate to go, it did get me thinking about the impact the event had on tourism to this charming and very appealing city.
The good news is that while Manchester's hotels experienced a tiny year-over-year dip in occupancy (-1.9%) right after the attack, the rebound was almost immediate, according to London- and North America-based STR, which provides analytics on the global hospitality industry.
More good news can be found in the proliferation of new and renovated hotels and restaurants as well as the menu of inviting festivals and special events, according to VisitManchester.
The Stock Exchange Hotel, for example, will reopen as a five-star hotel in November, and the Place Aparthotel, a Victorian railway warehouse, underwent an extensive renovation and is reopening Sept. 16 as the Native Manchester hotel. The 166-bed, four-star hotel will feature a bar, lounge, mini-cinema, Bistrotheque restaurant and a gym by boutique fitness brand Blok.
Hyatt has announced plans for two Hyatt-branded hotels in the city, the 212-room Hyatt Regency hotel and the 116-room Hyatt House hotel, both expected to open in 2020.
The city is also hard at work cementing its reputation as a foodie destination, with new eateries and bars popping up all over town.
Wilderness Bar + Kitchen, for example, opened this summer in the city's Northern Quarter and offers an all-day bar and dining overseen by head chef James Lord.
Also new is the Northern, the brainchild of chef Paul Heathcote, which showcases traditional recipes and ingredients from the country's northwest region.
Or try the newly opened Manchester Gin Distillery, where visitors can dine, hang out at the bar or take a distillery tour.
Meanwhile, special events include the 22nd annual Manchester Food and Drink Festival -- basically a city takeover from Sept. 26 to Oct. 7 -- featuring a food palace called the Dining Dome, street food vendors and restaurant events accompanied by live music.
Or take in the Manchester Literature Festival, set for Oct. 4 to 20, which features 80 book-related events, talks by award-winning authors and themed walking tours.
Homobloc, dubbed a "queer block party for all" will take place at the Depot at Mayfield on Nov. 9 and will be headlined by big-name DJs and live music.
Or bring the kids to the Manchester Christmas Markets, from Nov. 8 through Dec. 21, when Albert Square will be decked out for the holidays and young visitors can strap on skates for a few figure eights at the Ice Village.
Speaking of kids, the Natural History Museum will welcome the return of its mascot, Dippy the dinosaur, who has been on tour throughout the U.K. Believe it or not, Dippy has already drawn more than 1 million visitors to venues across the country, and thousands more are expected to visit him in Number One Riverside from Feb. 10 to June 28, his only stop in the region.
As to access, multiple airlines fly from the U.S. to Manchester, including Virgin Atlantic, which serves the destination from Atlanta, Boston, Las Vegas, New York, Orlando and Los Angeles, and Delta, which will start Boston to Manchester service next May.
Of course, none of this answers the question about whether the city is safe, but as horrifying as the incident at Manchester Arena was, there is nothing to suggest that it was part of a pattern of terrorism. By all accounts, the attack seemed random, and if anything, it has spurred me to be more aware of my surroundings at large concert and sports venues -- and that goes for any country in the world, including here at home.
Would-be visitors can also take their cue from Grande herself, who returned to the city to perform a month after the attack and again this summer, both times without incident and to appreciative crowds.