TOURISM spending has hit a new record in east Cheshire thanks to higher visitor numbers and longer hotel stays.

Income generated by the visitor economy rose to £807m in 2014, a rise of 9.4 per cent on the prior year and nearly 50 per cent up on 2009.

The figures, arrived at using the STEAM method for calculating the value of the visitor economy, were announced at the Marketing Cheshire Visitor Economy Conference by Cllr Les Gilbert, Cheshire East Council’s Cabinet member for communities.

Cllr Gilbert said: “Tourism growth in Cheshire East has exceeded our targets and is way above industry expectations.

“With the new visitor facilities planned at Jodrell Bank, hotel developments due imminently and the prospect of an HS2 hub station at Crewe, we can anticipate even better to come.”

Cllr Michael Jones, Cheshire East Council Leader, said: “The success of our visitor economy is great for the borough, great for jobs and great for local businesses.

“The council is doing all it can to support this successful industry and to promote Cheshire East as a destination for leisure and business tourism.”

The number of people employed in tourism in the borough grew by 3.7 per cent in 2014 to 10,900, which means that the industry has boosted its workforce by 26 per cent since 2009.

The total number of visitors increased 5.2 per cent to 14.62 million last year. They spent 15.8 per cent more on accommodation, and 8.4 per cent more on food, drink and recreational activities.

Cheshire East has also seen an influx in visitors to artisan markets, including Knutsford's, which is reflected in an 8.5 per cent increase in shopping expenditure since 2013.

There was a slight drop of 1.2 per cent in the numbers staying in hotels, guest houses and holiday cottages in 2014, but those who did stay spent 11.1 per cent more.

And average hotel occupancy is now rising, reaching 72.3 per cent April 2015 compared with 71.2 per cent a year earlier.