Leisure and tourism contributed £3.4 billion to Kent’s economy in the last year, up by £200 million.
Some 57m visitors came to the county in 2012, supporting more than 65,000 jobs.
The findings were unveiled in the Kent Property Report, released today at Sandwich’s Discovery Park.
Discovery Park in east Kent
The wide-reaching review examines the county’s commercial, retail, tourism, rural and residential markets – but it was not all good news.
It found average rent incomes fell in the office, warehouse, industrial and distribution sectors.
Caxtons chairman Ron Roser said: “Kent’s property sector is showing signs of growth, following what was undoubtedly another challenging year..." - Caxton's chairman Ron Roser
However there was good news for Kent’s residential property market, with average values increasing by 1.1% year-on-year to April 2013, just below the UK average.
Meanwhile, high streets in Kent saw average rents continuing their upward trend and outperforming the rest of the South East and the UK.
The report expects Kent to see more businesses emerging in sectors like life sciences, low carbon, environmental goods and services, advanced manufacturing, creative and digital.
It also suggests firms are feeling the benefits of infrastructure investments like High Speed One and that investment opportunities are opening up at development sites like the Thames Gateway and Ashford.
To help boost economic growth, report co-authors Kent County Council are making £60m available for Kent businesses to expand, known as its Regional Growth Fund.
Economic development cabinet member Cllr Mark Dance said: “We know that businesses across the county are still coming to terms with the challenging financial environment – but the news of an emerging economic recovery is very welcome.
The report was also authored by property consultants Caxtons and investment promotion agency Locate in Kent.“We have made around £60million of government Regional Growth Fund money and this is being picked up by firms now, creating jobs and growing business.”
Kent Property Report, launched at Discovery Park, Sandwich. From left, Locate in Kent chief executive Paul Wookey, Discovery Park, managing director Paul Barber, Kent County Council leader Paul Carter, Kent County Council economic development cabinet member Mark Dance, Caxtons chairman Ron Roser and Caxtons managing director Neil Chatterton
Caxtons chairman Ron Roser said: “Kent’s property sector is showing signs of growth, following what was undoubtedly another challenging year.
“Concerted efforts to attract new investment and support commercial growth are helping, with continued focus on unlocking major development sites in the county.
“Confidence is returning and there is buoyancy across the sector that extends from construction to sales and lettings, whether in the commercial or residential field.”
Locate in Kent chief executive Paul Wookey believes signs are positive for the next report.
In 2012-13, Locate in Kent helped 60 companies to set up, move to or expand in Kent, creating 1,363 jobs and safeguarding 1,065.
Mr Wookey said: “Successes in 2012-13 included 15 overseas companies, from the likes of the US, France, Germany, Denmark, India and New Zealand.
“Those figures, and the pipeline of interest that we have, support the Kent Property Market Report’s confidence that the county, with its first class infrastructure and financial incentives, is in a great position to make the most of the recovering economy.”