Birmingham has 33 million visitors each year and the number is set to soar with HS2.
Marketing Birminghamcommercial director Ian Taylor believes HS2 will have a transformational effect on the West Midlands and build on a visitor economy that already compares favourably with many UK cities.
Mr Taylor was addressing an audience at the Infrarail event at the NEC on Wednesday (May 2).
He said HS2 would bring 22,000 jobs and £1.5bn per year to the region and added that high speed rail would open up vast European markets with a population in excess of 500m.
‘You can reach 98% of the UK from Birmingham in four hours. We’re talking about reaching 500m people in Europe,’ he said.
John Morris, Head of Government and Industry Affairs at Birmingham Airport, was keen to make the case for connectivity.
‘Around 50% of the UK population will be within one hour of where we are standing,’ he said.
He said Birmingham Airport had the capacity to double passenger numbers to around 18m per year immediately, and that the existing runway would permit further growth to 36 million passengers.
Paul Watson, Strategic Director for Regeneration and Development at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, said HS2 was ‘a major opportunity for this part of the world.’
He said the authority was working hard to get the best possible deal for its communities and businesses.
Centro Head of Strategy, Alex Burrows, reminded the audience they were eight miles from Birmingham and Coventry.
He said rail’s share of travel into Birmingham had grown from 17 to 27 per cent in a decade.
‘One third of the growth forecasted until 2043 on the West Coast Main Line has already happened!’
He added it took place between 2007/8 and 2010/11.
‘This is why we need HS2,’ he said.