Revolution of another kind in Manchester

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Manchester, England, has experienced a surge in the number of international visitors over the last five years, from about 600,000 to 1.1 million.
Manchester, England, has experienced a surge in the number of international visitors over the last five years, from about 600,000 to 1.1 million. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Marketing Manchester

Manchester in northern England has long billed itself as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, and to be honest, until the few last few decades much of the city still retained some of the grim ambience associated with those dreary times.

That was before industrial chic was a thing.

Nowadays Manchester is a showplace for visitors looking to explore the trendy, repurposed architecture, now transformed into bars, restaurants, art galleries and shops, as well as the thriving culinary scene.

"The 2002 Commonwealth Games started the ball rolling," said Andy Parkinson, communications manager for Marketing Manchester.

The multisport event attracted attention to the city and was followed by years of smart investments in finance, the sciences and engineering, Parkinson said, adding that the huge student population has also added a hipster energy to the city.

An example of Manchester's rebirth is the formerly gritty suburb of Ancoats, which has exploded in recent years with restaurants like Squid Ink and Kettlebell Kitchen and microbreweries like Seven Bro7hers. Visitors can explore the neighborhood with a Gangs of Manchester walking tour, for example, or just enjoy the street art along the Ancoats Peeps walking trail.

Foodies are being lured to Greater Manchester, thanks to several high-profile chefs, including Simon Rogan of the restaurant the French and Aidan Byrne of Manchester House, as well as a new trend of pop-up eateries throughout the city.

New hotels also are on the horizon for 2017, including the posh, 22-room Oddfellows on the Park, Aparthotel's 114-room Roomzz Manchester Corn Exchange and the 17-room Cow Hollow Hotel in the city's northern quarter.

Of course, another draw is Manchester's location, which Parkinson describes as a gateway to the north of England.

"The majority of travelers come for two or three nights then go on to Liverpool or the Lake District," he said.

As to accessibility, Virgin Atlantic is poised to launch new nonstop routes to Manchester from the U.S. in 2017.
Starting in March, the carrier will operate three weekly flights from San Francisco and twice-weekly flights from Boston, and in May, the airline will take over the current Delta route between JFK and Manchester.

In all, the effort to get the word out about the city has been successful, Parkinson said, especially given that Manchester only started focusing on tourism in 1992.

In the past five years, the number of international visitors has risen from about 600,000 to 1.1 million, he said, and tourism experts expect those numbers to continue to grow.

Let's call it a revolution of a different kind.

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