Birmingham attracted a record 42.8 million visitors last year as the success of the TV show Peaky Blinders drives a tourism boom.
Peaky Blinders, the gritty crime drama that follows a ruthless Birmingham crime family in the era between the world wars, has become a cult hit for the BBC and Netflix. Now in its fifth season, tourism officials are saying the show's success has sparked a tourism boom for England's second-largest city. According to figures from the West Midlands Growth Company (WMGC), 42.8 million people visited Birmingham in 2018, a 26% rise on 2013 when the first series was aired.
Although several factors are at play, it's believed that "screen-tourism" - where tourists travel to destinations they have seen in TV or film - is driving the visitor boom. The BBC series can be viewed in 183 countries thanks to Netflix and international visitor numbers have surged by 19% to 1.1 million since the show first aired, with numbers from the US rising by 50% in the same period. According to the WMGC, international visitors spent about £17m last year on Peaky Blinders-themed activities from pop-up bars to tours and museums.
"The Peaky effect is really gaining momentum here, with tours and events in the West Midlands selling out months in advance,” Andy Street, the Mayor of West Midlands, told the Guardian. "Record numbers of tourists are now visiting the region, with many people wanting to explore the places and stories associated with the show."
Interestingly enough, although Peaky Blinders is set in Birmingham, the series is primarily filmed in Yorkshire, as well parts of Liverpool and Manchester. Birmingham's closest filming location is actually Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, which is described as the "home of Peaky Blinders" by Steven Knight, the show's creator. The award-winning open-air museum regularly lures Peaky Blinders fans with sell-out themed evenings. Andrew Lovett, chief executive at the museum told the Guardian that the museum has just seen "fifth successive year of growth" with record attendance numbers that were doubtless encouraged by the success of the show.
This autumn, three new Peaky Blinders attractions are hoping to pull in fans. Two escape rooms based on the show will open in the city centre soon and people can also visit the first official Peaky Blinders festival in Digbeth, central Birmingham, later this month.