'A FLURRY of cultural openings' makes 'edgy' Manchester the only place in the UK worth a visit this year, according to the prestigious New York Times 'Top Places To Go 2015' list.
"It's also the 20th anniversary of the Manchester Arena which Billboard magazine recently recognised as the third busiest music venue in the world."
Ranked 26 out of 52 destinations for American tourists to explore in 2015, Manchester joins Milan (1), Burgundy (15) and New Orleans (23) on the list, and ranks higher than the likes of Seoul (33), Shanghai (46) and Rome (48).
The eclectic 'Top Places To Go 2015' list is populated by revitalized cities, enlivened and often obscure countries (the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, for one) and places generally lesser-known to the American tourist - Baku in Azerbaijan (51), anybody?
The New York Times - the second largest newspaper in the United States (behind The Wall Street Journal) - cites Manchester's soon to open Whitworth Art Gallery, First Street's new £25m theatre and arts space HOME, and Old Trafford's Hotel Football as reasons to visit the city this year.
Strangely, the list entry fails to mention the city's exploding food and drink scene or the fifth Manchester International Festival (MIF) in 2015 - the world's only biennial festival of world premières and entirely new commissioned works from across the arts.
Still, let's not be persnickety. Here's the entry in full:
"26. Manchester - England's second city shows off its sophisticated side.
A flurry of cultural openings fills the 2015 calendar of this now edgy city, beginning with the completion of the Whitworth, a ₤15-million renovation and expansion of the former Whitworth Art Gallery into its adjoining park with an art garden and sculpture terraces in February. In the spring, the ₤25 million HOME, a film center and theater, will open. Last fall, the Regency-style former home of the 19th-century writer Elizabeth Gaskell, known to her publisher, Charles Dickens, as “Scheherazade,” opened as a visitor attraction. But it’s not all high culture. This soccer stronghold will be home to Hotel Football, opening in March next to the Old Trafford stadium. The hotel, backed by five former Manchester United players, is one of four new boutiques in the pipeline.
Commenting on the announcement Nick Brooks-Sykes, director of tourism at Marketing Manchester, said:
"We're absolutely delighted to see Manchester being recognised in this way, in what is set to be an exceptional year for cultural tourism in the city. Marketing Manchester has been courting the US market through promotional activities and campaigns for many years so this is a real coup and we hope that it will inspire a new wave of travellers to discover the city.
"In addition to the culturally significant moments described in the listing Manchester will also enjoy landmark events in 2015 including the fifth Manchester International Festival, Manchester Pride's 25th anniversary and a leg of the Rugby World Cup. It's also the 20th anniversary of the Manchester Arena which Billboard magazine recently recognised as the third busiest music venue in the world."
James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive, said:
“This is a fantastic accolade for Manchester. The combination of sporting, cultural and historical highlights taking place this year ensures that 2015 is set to be exceptional for this northern city.
"This is certainly reflected in the visitor figures as Manchester is the UK’s third most visited city for international visitors (after London and Edinburgh) and received almost a million visitors in 2013.”
The New York Times list is yet more international recognition for Manchester after leading luxury, lifestyle and travel publication, Conde Nast Traveller, awarded the city 'The Brit Hit' title in their 'What's Hot For 2015' feature last week - see here.