Back of bus with 'Magical Mystery Tour' in colourful 1960s style writing

Magical Mystery Tour bus © Mark McNulty

Tourism provides a further illustration of the global appeal and impact of the Beatles. Over recent years it has been claimed that through tourism the Beatles bring £20 million per year to Liverpool and Merseyside. But Beatles tourism has also emerged in other places including London, New York, Tokyo, Hamburg, Prague and Lithuania.

From the beginning the Beatles were closely associated with Liverpool. As fascination with the Beatles and their home city spread, Beatle fans from around the world began to visit Liverpool to see for themselves the birthplace of the Beatles, the place where it all began, the place that had influenced and inspired the band and their music.

For some visiting Liverpool is an important part of being a Beatles fan and demonstrating Beatles fandom. It also helps them to establish a deeper sense of connection to the Beatles:

"To imagine these to be the streets and pubs and clubs where the Beatles actually hung out is a dream to us... It's difficult to explain, but reality doesn't always come into it. Being in Liverpool is a dream come true." (Denise and Mike from North Carolina, cited in Cohen, 2007)

"Ya hear so much about the Beatles and Liverpool and when you actually get to come here it's like living the music... it's that extra bit to being a Beatles fan." (Dave from Atlanta, cited in Cohen, 2007)

But while for some visitors the Liverpool Sound of the Beatles is an authentic expression of 1960s Liverpool, for others it has become a tourist cliché.

During the 1980s a small tourist industry began to emerge in Liverpool to cater for Beatles visitors. Amongst the attractions that emerged were a Beatles shop and museum, Beatles tours and monuments and Beatles festivals. According to one of the tourist entrepreneurs involved, "The Beatles are to Liverpool what the Pope is to Rome and Shakespeare to Stratford" (cited in Cohen, 2007). He and other Beatles entrepreneurs argued that city officials should make more of this connection. They promoted it themselves in tourist slogans such as 'From Liverpool to the World', 'Four lads from Liverpool who shook the world' and 'Liverpool, the 5th Beatle'.

Exterior of one of the brick warehouses in the Albert Dock with signs for 'The Beatles Story' above steps leading down to the entrance

The Beatles Story © National Museums Liverpool

Music and tourism have always been connected (Gibson and Connell, 2005). Visitors have been lured to particular places by music scenes and sounds, music compositions and events. This includes the classical and operatic concerts aimed at the leisured and travelling elite of 19th century Europe, as well as the carnivals and festivals of contemporary or traditional music. Music is also commonly represented in tourist literature and place-marketing campaigns. According to the supporting literature for Liverpool's bid to become European Capital of Culture 2008:

"Mention Liverpool almost anywhere in the world and it's recognised straight away - Beatles and Liverpool or Everton FC or more recently Cream are the quality brands that the people of the world associate with our city."

In Liverpool and other port and industrial cities in Europe and the US, cultural tourism and heritage have been developed as a replacement for traditional industries that have declined or disappeared. What counts as tourism and heritage has also been broadened to incorporate the popular and more recent cultural past. This is illustrated by developments in popular music tourism during the 1980s and 1990s not just in Liverpool but elsewhere. Popular music tours, trails, and museums were introduced in cities such as Dublin, Detroit and Sheffield, for example, covering a range of musical styles from heavy metal to techno.

Cultural tourism has provoked typical tensions and debates and Beatles tourism is no exception. In Liverpool familiar concerns have been raised about the dominance of Beatles tourism and heritage. This has provoked calls for Liverpool to be promoted as more than the Beatles. In addition there have been debates about the value of Beatles tourism for the city, and about whether Beatles attractions are genuine and authentic or contrived and artificial, staged and manufactured mainly for profit. At the same time however, Beatles tourism has been welcomed as a means of preserving local music traditions, promoting local identity and pride and contributing to the local economy.

Further information about music and city tourism and marketing is in the next section - Global connections and influences: 'music cities'.