Last week’s record-breaking warm weather heralded the start of the school summer holidays and with it, the zenith of Kent’s tourism season.
I know from my time as a former tourism minister that Kent is one of the most flourishing holiday destinations in the UK, welcoming 65 million visitors in 2017. Thanks to our stunning countryside, historic heritage, and the Garden of England’s unmatched home-grown basket of foods and beverages, tourism makes a serious contribution to the local economy; with jobs in the sector accounting for 11% of employment in the County.
The recent growth in visitors to Kent is very welcome and I am particularly pleased that the contribution of day trips to Maidstone’s economy has grown by 11.2%, with Tunbridge Wells also benefiting from a 3.1% increase in the length of visitors’ stays. Be it a cruise along the tranquil Medway valley, a visit to the 14th Century Archbishop’s Palace, an amble around the magnificent gardens at Sissinghurst Castle or an afternoon of cricket and picnics in pretty hamlets like Hunton or the panoramic grounds at The Mote; our corner of the Home Counties has so much to offer.
But we cannot be complacent, and the current weakness of the Pound provides an opportunity to grow from an increasing influx of overseas visitors; the key challenge being to encourage tourists to come to us from London. The Kentish wine industry is on the case, collectively making an impact with their world-class vineyard tours and tastings; namecheck Maidstone & The Weald’s own Hush Heath winery in Staplehurst and Herbert Hall in Marden – very different, both superb.
I will be inviting the current tourism minister, Rebecca Pow, to visit us and raise her awareness of our fantastic offering first-hand; meanwhile aspiring Kentish tourism entrepreneurs can click Visit Britain for funding advice https://bit.ly/2ZkxQTX and seek business support and advice from my friends at Visit Kent Business www.visitkentbusiness.co.uk.