Kent hails investment as visitor numbers soar to record

Kent’s visitor economy has topped £3.6 billion for the first time, after welcoming a record 60 million visitors in 2015.

Research commissioned by Visit Kent revealed that 60.6 million visitors came to the county last year, and Kent remains the third most visited destination outside London for foreign visitors.

Tourism jobs increased by 6% to almost 72,000 and the overall value of Kent’s visitor economy rose 5% to £3.6 billion.

Sandra Matthews-Marsh (pictured), chief executive of Visit Kent, said: “2015 was undoubtedly a challenging year for the industry, with poor weather and the impact of Operation Stack during the summer.

“But these new figures show a rise in visitor numbers, jobs, and in the value of our industry, indicating that a lot of hard work has paid off.

“We put this picture of consistent growth down to two things – billions of investment by the public and private sector in hotels, attractions, footpaths, ferries and more, to ensure that Kent’s visitor offer is world class.

“Secondly, an unceasing commitment of both the public and private sector to work together on a single vision and strategy for tourism, led by Visit Kent.

“Our approach to the visitor economy is held up as a national example, and Kent’s performance is outstripping other destinations’ national growth figures.

But she warned: “This is not time to be complacent. We must continue to invest in this successful strategy if Kent is to stay on top.

“If we let up our concerted joint effort for a moment there is a real threat to the continued success of thousands of businesses.”

Mark Dance (pictured with Matthews-Marsh), Kent County Council cabinet member for economic development, said: “These figures show that our investment in supporting businesses across the sector over the last decade has worked.”

Matthews-Marsh added: “With so many exciting projects ahead, such as our new Gardens & Gourmet project, the 350th Anniversary of the Battle of Medway, the Folkestone Triennial, and new developments at award-winning winning producer Chapel Down, Kent is in an enviable position for 2017.”

Picture credit: Visit Kent.