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Kent tourism to benefit from £21m through EU-funded Interreg Experience to boost year-round visitors

By Chris Britcher

A major multi-million pound project to deliver year-round tourism to the county has been given the green light.

The four-year project will unite the south of England with northern France in a bid to boost overnight stays and will benefit from more than £21million in EU funding.

The Interreg Experience led by Norfolk County Council, alongside project partners Visit Kent and the Kent Downs AONB aims to deliver 24 million visitors and £132.5m of additional visitor spend by extending the tourism season through the development of off-season "bookable experiences" with an emphasis on overnight stays.

Money will be used to promote the county and other regions across the south Picture: Visit Kent
Money will be used to promote the county and other regions across the south Picture: Visit Kent

The four-year project, starting this September, will include 14 partners from across England and France, with a focus on the six pilot regions of Norfolk, Kent, Cornwall, Pas-de-Calais, Compiègne, Morlaix and Côtes d’Armor.

All will receive a share in funding from the EU's Interreg Channel Programme, which aims to deliver sustainable economic development in the south of the UK and north of France through funding "innovative projects which have a sustainable cross-border benefit".

Following Brexit, the UK government has guaranteed UK partners will be able continue to draw on EU funding until early 2023.

Funding could be some of the last from the EU before Brexit implications kick in
Funding could be some of the last from the EU before Brexit implications kick in

Kent alone will benefit from almost £3m of additional funding, which will be used to help shape a strategy to encourage international and overnight visitors into Kent during the quieter October to March period.

It is hoped this will help create year-round jobs in the hospitality sector and a more even spread of visitors to help reduce instra

In support of Kent’s involvement in the project, ten organisations have committed to match fund the Visit Kent and Kent Downs AONB budgets, including Kent County Council and Medway Council and district authorities in Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Hythe, Gravesham, Thanet and Tunbridge Wells.

It is hoped the money will help boost year-round tourism and create jobs Picture: Visit Kent
It is hoped the money will help boost year-round tourism and create jobs Picture: Visit Kent

KCC cabinet member for economic development, Mark Dance: “This is an exciting opportunity for Kent to be part of a strong cross-Channel partnership which will help deliver investment into the Kent landscape and support the communities that live here.

"Through the delivery of more year-round jobs and visits outside of the busy high season, this project will create a more sustainable tourism economy, enhancing its positioning as a great place to live, work and visit.”

Nick Johannsen, director of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty said: “ Through the Experience project we will improve sustainable access, care for the landscape and will support our rural businesses and the communities that they operate in. By promoting off season visiting and dispersing visitor pressure we can help manage some of the pressures we know are developing and we can maintain and improve the high-quality landscape that drives and supports Kent’s tourism.”

Deirdre Wells of Visit Kent welcomes the funding boost
Deirdre Wells of Visit Kent welcomes the funding boost

Chief executive of Visit Kent, the county's tourism agency, added: "Tourism has an increasingly important role within the Kent economy, generating £3.8 billion a year and supporting more than 77,000 jobs. Interreg Experience will help maximise the tourism industry’s already significant economic impact on the area, focusing on an increase in overnight stays to cultivate jobs and additional spend through high value, low volume tourism in the area.

"The project will also play an important role in maintaining strong cross Channel relationships post-Brexit, building on the momentum of Kent’s Discover England Fund and Interreg Profit, Green Pilgrimage and Go Trade projects to encourage partnership working and inbound tourism.”

Read more: For the latest business news for Kent

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