Bristol needs ‘Symbolic’ arena to compete with Cardiff

John Dowling, General Manager, DoubleTree by Hilton Bristol City Centre

Bristol hoteliers are becoming increasingly reliant on events in Cardiff to maintain respectable annual occupancy levels.

That’s the stark reality for some of the city’s hotels which look on with envy the consistent level of cultural, music and sporting events the Welsh capital regularly enjoys, which pulls in tens of thousands of visitors who fill out all available bedrooms.

With Cardiff City FC gaining promotion to the football premiership and flights now coming in direct from Qatar means the Welsh capital’s status on the world stage is going to increase further, stealing a march on the capital of the West Country.

The boss of one of Bristol’s leading four-star hotels is now hoping Marvin Rees sees sense and chooses the Temple Meads site for the proposed arena. If not he fears the city’s hotels will struggle further to fill their rooms leading to a cut back in investment and loss of jobs.

John Dowling, general manager at DoubleTree by Hilton, Bristol City Centre said: “We do benefit from the overspill in Cardiff especially when there is a big event on like the Rolling Stones concert or Six Nations rugby. But we can’t keep replying on our Welsh cousins to keep feeding us scraps.

“Bristol needs a symbol that places it on the map and this will only be achieved if the proposed arena is located next to Temple Meads. We desperately need something that represents the city and will attract international acts, artists and shows.

“Events like the new Gromit Unleashed II trail are fantastic but they don’t attract large numbers of people wanting to stay for the night.

“This June Cardiff is hosting Jay-Z and Beyonce, The Rolling Stones and four Ed Sheeran concerts. If each concert attracts approximately 60,000 people, that’s 360,000 visitors to Cardiff in just one month.

“I know for a fact that some businesses which invested in the Bristol hotel sector not less than five years ago would not do the same again now, purely because the various promises to build the arena at Temple Meads just haven’t come to fruition. This was factored into their projections for visitor levels.

“It’s not just the hotels that have suffered but the restaurants, bars and other fantastic attractions. Bristol’s restaurants have taken a battering over the last few months and retail sector is also finding it increasingly hard.

“Add in the prospect of Sunday and Bank Holiday parking charges and a possible bed tax, doesn’t bode well for the city centre. Bristol has a rich and varied history, diverse culture and superb live music scene. If ever there was a time to get a move on, it’s now.”