Kent’s beautiful countryside, historic towns, coastal resorts and world leading vineyards combined with its historic status as the Garden of England mean that tourism is at the heart of the county’s economy. The industry has seen rapid growth in the last five years and is responsible for 67,000 jobs in Kent which equates to 11% of all employment in the county.
Thankfully, the progress we have all made in bringing down the number of Covid-19 infections across Kent in recent weeks, means that many outdoor tourist attractions have been able to reopen this week.
In Maidstone and The Weald, Sissinghurst Castle Gardens are welcoming visitors who have booked tickets in advance. In Marden the shop and estate at Hush Heath Winery are also open. In the East of the County, Howletts and Port Limb Wildlife Parks have their social distancing measures in place and are also inviting visitors with pre booked tickets. If you fancy a day out, please check the situation at your favourite outdoor attractions and do pay a visit. These businesses are very significant elements of our local economy and they need your patronage. You will be extremely warmly welcomed I am sure.
As a former Tourism Minister I know how vital it is that the Government stand foursquare behind our tourism industry at this challenging time. We need to find ways for other hospitality outlets, such as bars and restaurants, to re-open as soon as possible. To that end I welcome the review the Prime Minister has commissioned into whether the two-metre social distancing requirement could be reduced.
Also, on the international front I am acutely concerned about the impact the recently introduced 14 day border quarantine measures will have. Our county is the UK’s third most popular destination for overseas visitors outside of London, with around 65 million a year according to a 2017 Visit Kent survey. I welcome the fact that the Government are keeping these measures under three weekly review.