Published: 05:00, 28 October 2021
| Updated: 15:12, 28 October 2021
Kent's Heritage Coast has been named as one of the best places to visit in the world, beating Puerto Rico and Vancouver Island.
The section of the county's coastline is fourth on a list of best regions to visit in 2022 by Lonely Planet, only beaten by locations in Iceland, the USA and China.
Including part of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the towns of Dover, Folkestone and their coastlines were the only UK destinations to feature in this year’s illustrious round-up.
Lonely Planet praised the area for its commitment to sustainable tourism initiatives, combined with the regeneration of Dover, Creative Folkestone, and plans to establish a UNESCO Global Geopark recognised within the region’s entry.
Known for its famous White Cliffs, Dover is the home to many spectacular beaches and stunning vistas, but what has it got that beats the popular holiday destination of Puerto Rico, which was placed fifth on the list.
Dover Castle is rated as the top place to visit in the town according to Tripadvisor. Rated at 4.5 stars out of five it is described as one of the most iconic of all English fortresses.
The first settlement on Castle Hill, where Dover Castle stands, may have been built in the pre-Roman Iron Age, although Puerto Rico has Old San Juan Cathedral, a 500-year-old settlement – the oldest on the Caribbean island, Dover Castle's history can be traced back more than 1,900 years.
The town's beaches are also tourist hotspots.
St Margaret’s Bay has a spectacular backdrop of white chalk cliffs, and is a top place for people to visit thanks to its rock pools, Channel views and The Coastguard pub and restaurant.
Puerto Rico also has a gorgeous coastline with crystal clear waters and sandy beaches, and the weather there is probably a clear divider between the two, but the Kent coastline fared better on the visit list than the Caribbean island.
Dover isn't the only place along Kent's Heritage Coast to visit, Folkestone is also a destination that Lonely Planet say is a must go-to.
Deirdre Wells is the chief executive of Visit Kent
The Folkestone Harbour Arm is another top rated place on Tripadvisor along our heritage coast.
The stretch was previously used as a railway terminal for the Boulogne Ferry, but now, while still embracing the town’s working fishing harbour, is a pivotal place for small, independent businesses and bars.
With a bakery, brewery and many seasonal events, the arm has become a beacon for the regeneration of Folkestone as a destination town prone to tourists.
Puerto Rico has two small harbours and inside Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria the majority of shops and restaurants are situated in small commercial shopping centres.
Again, while personal preference may be a factor in many travellers choices on whether or not to nip to Folkestone or fly to Puerto Rico, Lonely Planet ensures that each destination is chosen for its topicality, unique experiences, ‘wow’ factor, and ongoing commitment to sustainable tourism practices.
Deirdre Wells OBE, Visit Kent chief executive, said: “We are incredibly excited and hugely honoured to see Kent’s Heritage Coast cited as one of Lonely Planet’s best travel destinations for 2022.
"This stretch of our glorious county is home to sandy beaches and iconic chalk faces, alongside thriving cultural hotspots and an exciting, rolling programme of events."
Lonely Planet also highlighted Kent’s involvement in two Interreg funded projects. Interreg FCE is an EU programme set up to foster economic development in the south of the UK and north of France.
One is the EXPERIENCE project, which supports local tourism and hospitality businesses in developing new, low-environmental impact, year-round tourism experiences including accessibility improvements in the Kent countryside.
The other is the UNESCO Sites Across the Channel project, which aims to boost sustainable development and inclusion through seeking UNESCO designation.
Tom Hall from Lonely Planet, said: "Over the last year we have truly come to appreciate the beauty on our doorstep and the need to travel more responsibly.
"Kent’s Heritage Coast offers a unique combination of history, heritage, stunning and iconic natural landscapes and is now a leader in sustainable tourism initiatives.
"Already recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the county is implementing ambitious plans to establish a Global Geo Park, has created a cross-channel collaboration with regions in France to protect shared nature and heritage as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as developing community projects to benefit locals and visitors alike.
"It is this forward-thinking approach and commitment to regenerative tourism that has rated the region so highly in this year’s Best in Travel list.”
The Heritage Coast's high position on the Best in Travel list comes as Kent’s tourism and hospitality sector, worth £4.1 billion to the local economy pre-pandemic, is working to rebuild a vibrant and resilient industry for the future.
Cllr Trevor Bartlett, leader of Dover District Council said: "We are delighted that Kent’s Heritage Coast has received this outstanding global recognition, affirming White Cliffs Country’s well-deserved place on the world travel stage, and recognising the regeneration of the historic town of Dover.
"To be included as the only UK region in Lonely Planet’s 2022 Best in Travel reflects the superior visitor experience offered by our breath-taking natural landscapes, of which we are extremely proud.
"This is a real credit to our local rural tourism industry, as we work to ensure our coast and countryside remain a wonderful place to visit for generations to come, and further strengthens White Cliffs Country’s position as a first-class destination that meets trends for experiential tourism with sustainable products.
"This will provide another boost to the local visitor economy, and will complement our key partnership working to support economic growth for the future."