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Destination City review

Latest blog post What is Destination City now – and who is it for?
The Destination City Citizens Forum on May 20 may provide an opportunity to find out what the next phase of the programme will involve, and who will benefit. May 16 2024

The City Corporation's Destination City programme is moving from its initial focus in 2022/23 on major events and promotions to pull in more visitors, to an approach in 2024 that emphasises the Square Mile's existing unique cultural and heritage attractions.

The aim is to create a liveable, lively and connected City that works well for visitors, workers and residents. That will require partnership working to make the most of all the City's assets. Here are key recommendations likely to be of particular interest to residents, workers and visitors alike, drawn from a presentation and the official summary. We don't yet have a full report.

  • Redefine Destination City as the growth strategy for the Square Mile as destination overall - it's not just about visitors.
  • Focus on developing and marketing the unique culture and heritage of the City, which could be promoted as the capital's 'Old Town'.
  • Tell the story of the City more effectively, revealing its hidden treasures as well as major attractions.
  • Expect the main events programme to be commissioned by cultural and heritage organisations, rather than the City Corporation.
  • Create a comprehensive calendar of events, and deal with duplication of websites and social media.
  • Value and improve the public realm of streets, spaces and gardens that make up the public realm.
  • Achieve these changes by a Destination City hub that facilitates and supports new collaborations across all interests, rather than standing on its own to deliver the programme.

City Corporation councillors will be exercised by recommendations on the responsibilities of different committees, development of a new cultural strategy and creation of a Destination City Board. It is difficult to understand the significance of these without publication of the full review report. We don't know when that might be.

First phase

The first phase of Destination City was launched in May 2022 as “a package of measures designed to boost the vibrancy of the Square Mile, drive forward its recovery from the pandemic and increase its attractiveness to talent.” The main expenditure from a budget of £2.5 million was on major events - including re-staging Bartholomew Fair - and a new website promoting attractions and events. Further details in the blog posts listed here and the official resources.

The presentation slides on this page show the emphasis on competing with the West End and other London and global locations with a more attractive leisure offer to visitors and workers, developed by creating “more desirable destination experiences”.

However, an evaluation of Bartholomew Fair - held over three weeks in September 2023 at 17 locations across the Square Mile - showed it only generated at additional estimated cash spend by visitors of £1.8 million against a cost to the Corporation of £1,514,535. The Corporation indicated it would not fund major events in future and instigated an independent review of the programme by Paul Martin.

Initial review findings

The review of Destination City signalled a reset in the direction of the programme, with more emphasis on promoting existing cultural and heritage attractions, rather than big events with bought-in acts. Paul Martin reported in November 2023:

  • A focus on visitor numbers and spend needs to be balanced with attention to social inclusion and equity – Destination City must embrace the City’s long-standing and impressive commitment to serving the public good.
  • Destination City is therefore not only about place marketing (although this is essential and needs more attention) but the future development of a liveable, lively and connected City in a uniquely historic, cultural and characterful setting. Future decisions on allocation of the Destination City programme budget should flow from this collaborative approach.

Review report to a Citizens Forum

At the time of writing - late April 2024 - the full review report has been discussed in private Corporation committee sessions, but not published. We have had two indications of its content. The first was at a Citizens Forum, organised by councillor Brendan Barns, the Resident Representative on the City Envoy Network. I recorded Paul Martin's presentation, and he generously offered to edit the transcript, so I know it is accurate. The full text is here. I would summarise the key points as:

  • Focus on developing and marketing the unique culture and heritage of the City.
  • Value and improve the public realm of streets, spaces and gardens that make up the public realm that is important for visitors, workers and residents alike.
  • Tell the story of the City more effectively, revealing its hidden treasures as well as major attractions. More could be done on that, in addition to the visitor website created for the first phase of the programme.
  • Engage residents more effectively, using their knowledge and experience to help improve and guide the City's work
  • Recognise that the re-location of the London Museum to Smithfield Market will transform that area into an international visitor destination.
  • Explore how to attract more workers and visitors to the City on Mondays and Fridays, because there has been a shift to working Tuesday to Thursday.
  • Harness all the assets of the City by supporting collaboration between cultural and heritage organisations, the Livery companies, the Business Improvement Districts, businesses themselves, and resident organisations.

Official summary report

Earlier in April the Corporation published an official summary, which I reported here. It says:


1) Destination City should be redefined as the growth strategy for the Square Mile as a destination.
2) Recast Destination City as a partnership approach to making the Square Mile a magnetic destination by:

a) Prioritising improving pedestrian connectivity between places.

b) A consistently lively and animated ground floor experience.

c) A premium concierge service for relocating businesses.

d) A particular focus on driving footfall between Fridays and Mondays.


3) Align accountability for the refreshed Destination City programme to the Policy & Resources committee while aligning accountability for the culture strategy to the Culture, Heritage & Libraries committee.
4) Create a new Destination City Board to build on, and succeed, the current City Envoy network with the proposed terms of reference and membership set out in the independent review report.


5) Create a Destination City Hub, reflecting the responsibilities and capabilities described in the independent review report.
6) Request the Town Clerk/Chief Executive to consider the future organisational location for the Destination City Hub, including the possibility that it should be relocated to the Town Clerk’s department to enable cross-departmental delivery.
7) Future events programmes to be commissioned by the cultural and heritage organisations in the Square Mile including the City’s Barbican Centre, Museum of London and Business Improvement Districts, businesses and relevant community interest companies.
Events that are supported by the City of London Corporation should support the strategic priorities and goals (e.g. driving Friday/Monday footfall), be regular (for example, monthly) and likely to be smaller scale than those run by Destination City to date.

8) Establish a Destination City dashboard using the targets and measures set out in the independent review report.
9) Commission future insights programme jointly with Business Improvement Districts having ensured that the data materially adds to the Destination City dashboard and focusses on market research on visitor originating area, attitudes and quality of experience.
10) Reevaluate the social media strategy and the possible partnership approaches to this where duplication currently exists, focus effort on a comprehensive calendar of events, and achieving an enhanced sense of the City of London as the capital’s ‘Old Town’.
11) Ensure lease conditions in relevant commercial areas reflect a curated and appealing visitor experience.
12) Encourage relevant services working with children and young people to prioritise school visits that align with the Destination City priorities and the development of skills and employment opportunities in the hospitality industry.


13) Request the Town Clerk/Chief Executive to consider options for the future Head of Profession for Culture as described and make an appropriate appointment to progress the cultural strategy.
14) Align the new culture strategy with the Destination City vision in an approach that is collaborative, develops new partnerships and sets its sights on the City of London as an international cultural and heritage destination.

dc/review.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/16 15:20 by davidwilcox