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Kent marathon idea considered as county council seeks ways to tackle devastation caused by coronavirus pandemic on tourism


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Runners from across the UK and abroad could come to Kent for its own brand new marathon, if new recommendations are accepted.

The idea of an international marathon held in the county was discussed at a Kent County Council (KCC) meeting today.

KMTV reports on the story

Thousands of fitness fanatics ran their own marathons around their home towns yesterday after Covid-19 restrictions meant only the elite runners could do the London Marathon in the capital.

But under these new recommendations, runners in Kent could have somewhere closer to home to complete a 26.2-mile course.

The recommendation in KCC's visitor economy report said: "KCC should promote the establishment of a regularly-occurring international marathon which involves neighbouring countries across the Channel.

"This event would cement international relationships and provide an additional platform to advertise Kent, as well as promoting the benefits of sport and fitness."

It is one of 11 recommendations in the 31-page document, drawn up to consider what actions to take in light of the impact of coronavirus on the county's visitor economy.

Runners taking part in this year's Dartford Half Marathon - but could an international-standard marathon be staged in Kent? Picture: Ken Mears
Runners taking part in this year's Dartford Half Marathon - but could an international-standard marathon be staged in Kent? Picture: Ken Mears

However, Cllr Trudy Dean (Lib Dem), of West Malling, speaking at a virtual scrutiny meeting yesterday, said she was "worried" about promoting such big events amid the pandemic.

She told the panel of 11 other councillors: "I understand absolutely how such events can be real galvanisers in the local economy.

"But if you were sitting around a table now trying to arrange such events the first question that you would face is 'when can you confidently say you can hold such an event again without the risk of cancellation?'

"These events cost a huge amount to arrange and they are very risky in terms of people that invest in them. I think we need to be careful to ask people to risk their money on a big event such as a marathon."

The KCC inquiry report states that strengthening relationships with neighbouring countries is "important" to boosting the local visitor economy.

"I think we need to be careful to ask people to risk their money on a big event such as a marathon..."

"With Britain leaving the EU, bilateral relationships with neighbouring authorities across the Channel have become even more important," it adds.

At the meeting Cllr Rosalind Binks (Con), defended the proposal and said it was a "future suggestion".

She said: "The marathon was mentioned as a future recommendation for something when things return to normal.

"Nobody was suggesting we were going to have it next April and that we ought to start working on it now. I think that is taking it to the extreme to suggest 'we ought to be careful about this because it costs a lot of money'."

Prior to the Covid-19 crisis, Kent attracted 65 million visitors a year in an industry worth £3.8 billion to the economy and supporting 77,000 jobs.

Since the pandemic, a massive 89% of businesses in the hospitality sector have either closed permanently or temporarily, says the report. They account for a third of all job losses and have reported the most redundancies.

The report paints a bleak picture, saying: "While measures such as business rates relief, tourism and hospitality grants, and the CJRS (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme) have been a lifeline for businesses, local firms in the visitor economy are still low on cash reserves and there is a high risk that many of them may not survive the winter."

Sheppey's London Marathon virtual runners John and Steph Gill on the seafront at Sheerness
Sheppey's London Marathon virtual runners John and Steph Gill on the seafront at Sheerness

Other ideas to boost the sector include:

- highlighting the message that Kent is a safe and attractive place to visit

- considering the use of TV advertising to attract people to Kent

- KCC to work with others on regenerating high streets

- the development of a 'destination pitch' to persuade skilled workers to live in the county

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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