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Visit Kent's Deirdre Wells calls on Michael Gove to deliver Brexit resilience fund for county's £3.8bn tourism sector

The county's tourism chiefs have once again approached the government in a bid to secure a Brexit resilience fund.

It comes months after a previous approach was rejected by Theresa May's government.

However, following a recent visit to the county by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, who is overseeing the UK's departure from the EU, the chief executive of the county's tourism champion Visit Kent, Deirdre Wells, has written to Mr Gove calling for support for Kent tourism businesses to mitigate any immediate disruption which may occur following Brexit.

Deirdre Wells, CEO of Visit Kent, is calling on Michael Gove to create a Brexit resilience fund for Kent
Deirdre Wells, CEO of Visit Kent, is calling on Michael Gove to create a Brexit resilience fund for Kent

The latest letter says despite the government's efforts to deliver as frictionless a border as possible, further support does need to be given to businesses in order to mitigate the impact of leaving with no deal.

Mrs Wells said: "Whilst every effort is being made to minimise any traffic disruption, it is clear that the economic uncertainty and negative perceptions are already having an impact on the visitor economy in Kent. International visits this summer are down, and domestic visits are also suffering a decline.”

To minimise this impact, and to ensure the return to business as usual as quickly as possible, Visit Kent is proposing a substantial tourism business resilience fund and strategy to align with the logistical arrangements being agreed between Kent County Council and Highways England.

Michael Gove was in Kent recently for a meeting at the Port of Dover
Michael Gove was in Kent recently for a meeting at the Port of Dover

This would include a 'rail first' campaign to encourage visitors to switch to rail and minimise the impact on the roads; a major Welcome to Kent campaign, linked to the GREAT Britain campaign, launched last winter, to emphasise the message to domestic and international visitors that Kent, and the UK, is an open and welcoming destination; and a cross-Channel campaign, focused on educational visits, to rebuild our most valuable markets in France and the Netherlands.

This fund, says Visit Kent, would be supported by major tourism partners in Kent, including KCC, Eurotunnel, Southeastern trains as well as major tourist attractions and hospitality businesses. Led by Visit Kent, this fund would not only support Kent tourism, but also the wider UK tourism economy.

Previous attempts to float the same concept had failed to find favour with former tourism minister Michael Ellis.

Visit Kent is concerned the county's tourism industry, worth £3.8billion a year, could be hit hard by BrexitPicture: Visit Kent
Visit Kent is concerned the county's tourism industry, worth £3.8billion a year, could be hit hard by BrexitPicture: Visit Kent

He had responded to Visit Kent chairman Jonathan Neame saying he was unable to support the fund proposal. He said the government had already agreed to fund road schemes under Operation Brock designed to keep traffic moving to the tune of £29m.

However, he added that he was prepared to “keep the matter under review”.

Now with Boris Johnson ushering in a new cabinet, tourism chiefs hope the fund will be reconsidered.

Read more: For the latest business news for Kent

Read more: For the latest Brexit news impacting Kent

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