Visit Kent’s latest Tourism Economic Impact Study, published today, shows that before the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the county’s visitor economy had topped £4.1 billion for the first time ever, welcoming a record 66.5 million visitors in 2019.
Independent research commissioned by Kent’s official Destination Management Organisation has revealed that £278 million was spent on average in the local economy each month in 2019, as a direct result of the county’s tourism and hospitality industry.
The number of tourism jobs across the Garden of England showed a 6% increase between 2017 and 2019, to 81,458, accounting for 11% of total employment in Kent last year.
Using the industry-respected Cambridge Economic Impact Model, the study measured the volume and value of tourism in the county in 2019, and the impact of visits and visitor expenditure on the local economy.
These latest figures provide a detailed picture of the substantial impact of Kent’s tourism and hospitality sector on the county’s wider economy, preceding the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
The release of the county’s latest Economic Impact findings coincides with the launch of a significant programme of recovery, led by Visit Kent, alongside visitor economy partners at Visit Essex, East Sussex County Council and Sussex Modern.
The project, which has been titled Re-Building Confidence and Demand in the Visitor Economy, will be rolled out across the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) area. The planned package of support will include major digital campaigns to drive off-season visits, increase consumer confidence and disperse visitors, along with dedicated local campaigns to effectively reboot the visitor economy ahead of the upcoming 2021 season.
This programme of activity has been made possible through a successful joint application into SELEP’s Sector Support Fund: a £500,000 per year pot to support one-off, discrete pieces of work of a pan-LEP nature, with a sector focus that brings demonstrable benefit and has support across the LEP. The application has been awarded £200,000, with its project partners providing a range of cash and in-kind match-funding.
Deirdre Wells OBE, Chief Executive of Visit Kent, said: “We are extremely proud to be working not only with partners throughout our own county, but with allies across the region on an extensive programme of activity that aims to support the recovery of our industry following the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The insights presented through our latest research demonstrate the huge contribution our vital industry makes to the overall economy of Kent. The continued collaborative efforts of organisations across the region will be critical in championing the recovery of our sector during a particularly challenging year ahead.”
The recovery of Kent’s visitor economy will be further supported by funding secured by Visit Kent and Kent Downs AONB last year as part of a four-year European project.
Interreg Experience will support businesses across the county to adapt to changing consumer trends and become more resilient by creating new innovative visitor experiences. The project will also help to rebuild the visitor economy in a more sustainable way and create year-round jobs by attracting more visitors to the county outside of the peak, summer season.
Roger Gough, Leader of Kent County Council, said: “The visitor economy is one of Kent’s great strengths. We will do everything possible to ensure its resilience during the Covid-19 crisis and its revival in 2021, and beyond.
After the strong performance in 2019, demonstrated in the Economic Impact Study, the sector’s bold plans for 2020 were utterly disrupted by the Covid-19 crisis. The recovery programme offers hope, and more importantly a clear plan for how the sector can rebuild.”
The full Kent Tourism Economic Impact Study 2019 report, along with a selection of district-specific reports, is available here.
For more information about Kent, please visit www.visitkent.co.uk.