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Gravesham tourism industry showing signs of early recovery since Covid pandemic

The tourism industry is bouncing back, with numbers up after the devastating impact of Covid.

Visit Kent’s latest Economic Impact Model for 2021, published last week , shows promising signs of early recovery for Gravesham’s tourism industry, showing the value of its visitor economy increasing to £70 million, a 50% growth from 2020, with 1.5 million combined day and overnight trips being undertaken in the area in 2021.

The LV21 Lightship and the River Thames are a popular draw. Picture: Gravesham council
The LV21 Lightship and the River Thames are a popular draw. Picture: Gravesham council

The number of total tourism jobs across the district also increased by 13% between 2020 to 2021, to 1,825 accounting for 6% of total employment in Gravesham last year, despite the government furlough scheme finishing in September 2021.

Using the industry-respected Cambridge Economic Impact Model, the study measured the volume and value of tourism within the county in 2021, and the effect of visits and visitor expenditure on the local economy throughout this tumultuous period.

England entered its third national lockdown on January 6, 2021 and began the four-step roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions, which only formally ended in July 2021. The government then also announced the Plan B measures in December 2021 following the rise of the Omicron variant.

While the tourism and hospitality picture remained challenging throughout the region in 2021, these latest findings do show that Gravesham’s visitor economy performed above the national average across several areas.

The overall results show that the borough benefited from extremely high levels of domestic tourism spending – against a nationally projected 64% growth on 2020, Gravesham’s domestic overnight tourism spend increased by 104% on 2020 levels, generating £14.8 million in 2021.

Cobham Hall is packed with history. Picture: Gravesham council
Cobham Hall is packed with history. Picture: Gravesham council

The proportion of those travelling to visit friends and relatives (VFR) in Gravesham during 2021 also accounted for 36% of all overnight stays (overseas and domestic). This demonstrates the influence that ongoing support from Kent’s residents – who acted as ambassadors for their county, welcoming friends, and family to experience it first-hand – had on local businesses during a hugely difficult year.

Welcoming the report’s findings, Cllr Shane Mochrie-Cox, Gravesham council’s cabinet member for community and leisure, said: “This is really encouraging for our local tourism industry, which faced a particularly tough time during the pandemic.

“These are more than just the green shoots of recovery; it’s a real show of confidence and shows our fantastic local businesses and attractions have worked hard to harness the eagerness of the public to get out and about again and discover new places and old favourites as they came out of lockdown restrictions.

“Over the long term the council, along with our tourism business owners and other partners, are looking to grow and enhance our tourism offer as part of our Tourism and Heritage Strategy: Destination Gravesham.

“These results are real testament to the hard work and commitment of our local tourism business owners and partners, and also the team at the council who support them and who together work to stage so many events that draw visitors to our borough.”

Cllr Shane Mochrie-Cox
Cllr Shane Mochrie-Cox

Visit Kent chief executive, Deirdre Wells said: “After our sector was devastated by the Covid-19 crisis throughout 2020, it is encouraging to see the results for 2021 which show vast improvement across all areas of the visitor economy, demonstrating the resilience and hard work of Gravesham’s brilliant tourism, leisure, and hospitality sector during what was still a chaotic and uncertain time.

“The results show that whilst footfall was not yet back to 2019 levels, the vast increase in domestic visitors and more people staying overnight is extremely encouraging.

“We are delighted that our domestic overnight tourism spending was far above the projected UK national average, indicative of the strong tourism product in Kent that appealed to consumers.

“The findings around the importance of local spend, and VFR demonstrates that Kent’s residents continue to be the biggest advocates for our industry. We are extremely grateful to our residents who have shown unwavering levels of support to local businesses, during an extremely challenging time.”

You can find the full version of the Gravesham Tourism Economic Impact Study 2021 report, along with a selection of district-specific reports, here.

Deirdre Wells of Visit Kent. Picture: Patrick Balls
Deirdre Wells of Visit Kent. Picture: Patrick Balls

Deirdre continued: “We have an exciting year ahead. We’ll be running an international business events campaign in January, showcasing businesses’ purpose-built event spaces as in-person meetings and ‘away days’ properly return, hosting 20 leading tour operators in Kent to further drive our recovery, and joining with coastal destinations across the UK to celebrate the Year of the Coast 2023.

“It is also clear there is a huge appetite for domestic stays in the county, so we’ll working to bring more hotel accommodation to support demand. Thanks to incredible collaborations with partners in Gravesham, we’re confident that we can continue to build a vibrant, sustainable, and resilient industry for the future, together.”

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