Some areas of the city have seen over 20% more footfall than pre-pandemic as partnerships across the city help to combat the ‘covid effect’ on the Chester’s businesses.
As Destination Chester’s ‘Roving Moon’ installation takes its fourth move across the festive period, and the fourth weekend of Chester BID’s free parking at the Racecourse begins, city partners have taken time to take stock of these initiatives on the city’s footfall – and to assess whether they will be sufficient enough to counteract the Plan B effect on hospitality and retail for the rest of the crucial December trading period.
The Roving Moon initiative was commissioned by Destination Chester, a network of the city’s tourism partners. Following its reveal at the Christmas Parade, the moon has moved across the city to different locations. Across the first week in December, it sat across Northgate and Delamere Street alongside the Christmas Market and the city saw the footfall rise on Northgate by 20% compared to pre-pandemic figures in 2019.
Jamie Christon, CEO Chester Zoo and Chair of Destination Chester said: ‘Destination Chester was formed to help counteract the effect of Covid on our city centre visitor numbers – and to encourage people to choose Chester as a destination. We knew the Christmas offering was already strong in the city, but it can take a new initiative to remind visitors to return– and that’s what the ‘roving moon’ was set up to achieve.’
‘We deliberately and cautiously focused our initiatives on ‘covid proof’ outdoor installations and events over Christmas and will continue with this throughout our Spring Burst, set to begin in February. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that we need to plan for the unexpected, be pro-active and quick to respond. Our network makes it easier to do this successfully and in partnership across the city and we will face Plan B and any further restrictions with the resilience needed.’
The moon hops weekly across landmark buildings, with the anticipated result of enticing visitors and shoppers to explore snippets of the city not previously discovered. It now sits on the owners and trainers building at Chester Racecourse, after spending a week on the River Dee with Chester Boat. The best viewing point for the moon whilst at Chester Racecourse is from the Nuns Road area of The Walls, or indoors from Restaurant 1539.
Charles Barnett, Chester Race Company said: ‘We are delighted to be playing our part for the city’s high street and hospitality businesses this Christmas; hosting Chester BID’s parking initiative, and of course the roving moon for this week’s final push into Christmas. It’s become increasingly important we work together as a city to attract visitors, also to make their visit to the city easier and less expensive. Chester Race Company are fully committed to playing our part to make the city’s visitor experience as special as it deserves to be, throughout the whole year as well as on race days.’
Carl Critchlow, BID Manager, Chester BID said: ‘As Plan B measures start to come in and challenge our hospitality and retail businesses yet again, we will draw upon the lessons we learnt back in April 2020. The city stood together, supporting each other. We’ll continue to do that, acting collectively to make sure the city has the best chance it can to survive another set-back.
The city is performing brilliantly, outperforming the High Street Index by 17% year to date, but there is no doubt that Plan B and its effect will be a challenge. And we will look to government for support whilst also continuing our campaigns to shop, eat and drink locally and support our independents.’
Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: ‘It’s important to keep pushing through initiatives that are supporting our city centre’s retail and hospitality businesses and maintaining footfall within the city. We can all play our part in limiting Omicron by using face coverings in enclosed and busy places, washing hands frequently and maintaining spaces for ourselves. We are determined as a city in partnership to do our best to overcome these challenges, with safety for our visitors and residents at the forefront.’
For more details, go to www.visitchester.com, or @visitchesterandcheshire on social channels.