The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, received a warm Hertfordshire welcome last week, as he enjoyed a guided tour around Knebworth House from Managing Director Martha Lytton Cobbold, accompanied by Go To Places Deputy Chief Executive David Curtis-Brignell.
Mr Dowden’s tour of the iconic Hertfordshire venue included a walk through Knebworth’s Formal Gardens and popular Dinosaur Trail.
The morning’s packed programme was designed by the team at Knebworth and Visit Herts as an opportunity to discuss how tourism and hospitality businesses across the county have been affected by Covid-19, as well as how venues like Knebworth are working hard to welcome visitors back in-line with current Government guidelines.
Knebworth reopened its outdoor facilities to the public on 27th May, with a reduced number of tickets available and staggered, timed slots. In-line with the ease of lockdown restrictions, the House and Adventure Playground reopened on 4th July, with the venue receiving very positive feedback from its visitors.
Similarly to many tourism and hospitality businesses across the country, Knebworth has been required to adapt and innovate in order to welcome visitors back safely and responsibly. While guidance still permitted the opening of retail shops in May, the site created a temporary outdoor pop-up shop which was warmly received, with sales exceeding the team’s expectations. Innovation continues throughout this summer, with upcoming Drive in Cinema and Garden Theatre shows offering a wide range of events and activities to suit a range of ages and budgets.
Both Martha and David welcomed the opportunity to speak to the Minister about the impact Covid-19 has had on Hertfordshire’s tourism and hospitality industry, as well as the steps currently being put in place by partners across the county in order to aid the sector’s recovery over the coming months.
One important initiative that they were able to highlight to the Minister during his visit was the new Crowdfund Hertfordshire: Small Business Innovation Fund. Visit Herts are currently working in partnership with Hertfordshire’s Local Enterprise Partnership in order to offer small and micro businesses within the tourism, leisure, hospitality, retail, arts & culture sectors the chance to unlock between £2,000 and £5,000 in match funding to help overcome the challenges of Covid-19. Information about the fund can be found here.
Tourism has an increasingly important role within Hertfordshire’s economy, generating £2.2 billion a year, and supporting 40,000 jobs. The industry now accounts for 8% of Hertfordshire’s total employment.
Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, commented:
"There are so many ways for visitors to enjoy summer safely at Knebworth House, from taking a socially-distanced tour of the historic site to watching a film under the stars at the Luna Cinema. We have worked closely with the screen industry and medical experts during this crisis to develop detailed guidance for filming to restart, and it was brilliant to see preparations in action."
Knebworth House Managing Director and Visit Herts Co-Chair, Martha Lytton Cobbold commented:
“I was delighted to meet with The Minister to discuss the effect the pandemic has had on us as a heritage attraction and business, and how we are now moving forward proactively to enable continued safe access, and retain employment and business where possible. We are grateful to the DCMS for their support and welcome the opportunity to discuss the ongoing challenges within heritage maintenance and the wedding business.”
Go To Places Deputy Chief Executive, David Curtis-Brignell commented:
“It was especially fitting that Martha hosted this week’s visit, as it was five years ago this week that we were both in the process of forming the new Visit Herts destination management organisation; I am extremely proud of our team and what we have achieved during this time. Recently our role has concentrated on providing guidance to our businesses and partners and in running our "Respect, Protect Enjoy" consumer messaging to inspire people to visit and to enjoy the county safely this summer.”