Kent to be part of a multi-million euro project to deliver year-round experiential tourism

Kent to be part of a multi-million euro project to deliver year-round experiential tourism

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Tourism looks to be growing in the UK, not content to be confined solely within the nations capital either.

A €23.3 million project to deliver economic development through experiential tourism in the south of the UK and north of France has been given the green light after it was announced this week.

Interreg Experience led by Norfolk County Council, alongside project partners Visit Kent and the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), aims to deliver 24 million visitors and €147million of additional visitor spend by extending the tourism season through into the off-season with the development of bookable experiences which have an emphasis on overnight stays.

The four-year project, starting September 2019, will include 14 partners from across England and France, with a focus on the six pilot regions of Norfolk, Kent, Cornwall, Pas-de-Calais, Compiègne, Morlaix & Côtes d’Armor.

The partners have been awarded funding as part of the Interreg Channel Programme, whose aims are to deliver sustainable economic development in the south of the UK and north of France through funding innovative projects which have a sustainable cross-border benefit. Following the departure of the UK from the European Union, the UK Government has guaranteed UK partners will be able to continue to draw on EU funding until early 2023. Despite concerns over European business ties after Brexit, securing this project funding provides an opportunity to continue to work with European partners to support business growth and to promote bilateral collaboration in the years ahead.

Kent alone will benefit from €3.3 million of additional funding into the county, which will help shape a strategy to encourage international and overnight visitors into Kent during the quieter October to March period. This approach will work to drive the creation of additional year-round jobs in hospitality, ensure a more even spread of inbound visitors and reduce the demand on infrastructure during the summer months. This focus on increasing productivity and reducing seasonality is strongly aligned to the Government’s recently announced Tourism Sector Deal, which will provide a step change in support for the tourism industry.

In support of Kent’s involvement in the project, ten organisations have committed to match funding with the Visit Kent and Kent Downs AONB budgets, including Kent County Council, Ashford Borough Council, Canterbury City Council, Medway Council, Dover District Council, Folkestone & Hythe District Council, Gravesham Borough Council, Thanet District Council, and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Mark Dance commented: “This is an exciting opportunity for Kent to be part of a strong cross-Channel partnership which will help deliver investment into the Kent landscape and support the communities that live here.  Through the delivery of more year-round jobs and visits outside of the busy high season, this project will create a more sustainable tourism economy, enhancing its positioning as a great place to live, work and visit.”

The Kent Downs AONB will work closely with the Public Rights of Way and Explore Kent teams to ensure the project will benefit the entire county through a focus on rural tourism and a new landscape infrastructure.

Nick Johannsen, Director of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty said: “We are delighted to receive this grant and to work in partnership with Visit Kent, Kent County Council and our Districts and Boroughs. The beautiful Kent Downs is a major resource for Kent’s visitor economy. Through the Experience project we will improve sustainable access, care for the landscape and will support our rural businesses and the communities that they operate in. By promoting off season visiting and dispersing visitor pressure we can help manage some of the pressures we know are developing and we can maintain and improve the high-quality landscape that drives and supports Kent’s tourism.”

Deirdre Wells, OBE, Chief Executive of Visit Kent, also added : “Tourism has an increasingly important role within the Kent economy, generating £3.8 billion a year and supporting more than 77,000 jobs. Interreg Experience will help maximise the tourism industry’s already significant economic impact on the area, focussing on an increase in overnight stays to cultivate jobs and additional spend through high value, low volume tourism in the area.

The project will also play an important role in maintaining strong cross Channel relationships post-Brexit, building on the momentum of Kent’s Discover England Fund and Interreg PROFIT, Green Pilgrimage and Go Trade projects to encourage partnership working and inbound tourism.”

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