Tourism and business leaders have proposed a new visitor charge in Chester to provide much-needed investment for promoting the historic destination.

It would see guests staying in 27 Chester hotels pay a £2 +VAT charge per room, per night.

This would raise more than £1million a year to reinvest in new events and festivals, better visitor services, and promotion of the city to business and leisure visitors at home and abroad.

While visitor numbers are growing in Chester, they are yet to recover to pre-pandemic levels. Public funding for tourism promotion has also declined.

The aim of the charge is to generate the investment needed to attract more visitors to stay in the city’s hotels, enjoy its attractions, and spend in shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. This in turn would create more jobs in the city.

Chester hoteliers will be invited to vote on the proposed visitor charge, set out in a detailed, five-year business plan, in June and July this year. If the majority vote in favour, a new Accommodation Business Improvement District (ABID) would be established with the charge introduced from January 2025.

Image Credit: Marketing Cheshire

The Chester ABID plan follows the success of a similar scheme in Manchester. Other cities and regions including Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, and Cambridge have either introduced, or will soon vote on similar plans.

The ABID proposal (attached in full) is led by Destination Chester, a network of the city’s attractions and businesses, alongside the existing Chester City Centre Business Improvement District, and the Chester Hospitality Association.

They are working with Cheshire West and Chester Council and tourism body Marketing Cheshire on the ABID proposal and ballot process.

If the vote is in favour, the Chester Accommodation BID would come into force in January 2025, and be governed by a board of accommodation providers and visitor economy partners.

Colin Potts, Chair of Destination Chester, said:

“The Chester Accommodation BID offers the potential for a game-changing investment in our city’s visitor economy, that would allow us to build on and improve the incredible tourism offer we already provide.

“It brings together our hotels and other tourism businesses to create an ambitious long-term plan that will provide new resources to encourage more overnight visitors and longer stays – and at no cost to our businesses.

“Our visitor economy continues to recover after a few difficult years, but we are competing for attention in a hugely challenging market, nationally and internationally. This approach and funding could energise that recovery and bring a massive boost to our hotels, attractions and employers across the city.”

Carl Critchlow, Chief Executive of the Chester Business Improvement District, said:

“This exciting plan would allow us to fund new events, festivals and cultural activity for visitors to enjoy, alongside investing in improved seating, signage and maintenance to make our city centre more welcoming.

“We welcome a huge amount of day visitors to the city but encouraging more people, for instance to stay for the weekend, would offer a big boost to our shops, restaurants and cafes, and the night-time economy.

“Many UK cities are working on similar plans and will soon have extra money to spend on promoting and supporting tourism. It is vital that Chester does not get left behind.”

Steven Hesketh, Chair of the Chester Hospitality Association, said:

“It is critical that hotels, attractions and wider businesses work together to promote our city, offer visitors the warmest welcome and make sure they enjoy an excellent stay.

“We need to fund that work and in the current climate, the ABID is the only game in town.

“That is why we have talked to our hotels and others to shape an exciting plan with clear benefits for businesses and residents alike. And we will be learning from the experience of cities including Manchester where an accommodation BID has already proved very successful.”

Andrew Stokes OBE, England Director, VisitEngland, added:

“VisitEngland has worked with Marketing Cheshire and its capable and enthusiastic team for a number of years. Delivering an ABID for Chester would significantly amplify the work of the partnership and provide the investment needed to grow the destination’s visitor economy.

“Through this ABID, we look forward to being able to feature Chester more effectively in VisitBritain’s international travel trade work programme and marketing campaigns as well as working with you to ensure the city can benefit from more business events, raising Chester’s profile both nationally and internationally.”

  • The ABID Steering Group is due to formally endorse the proposal during an online meeting on Tuesday morning. Following that the 27 Chester hotels will have their say and sent voting slips – with voting open from June 14 to July 11.

The Business Plan is available to read at