Visit Kent: tourism businesses need Brexit resilience fund

Visit Kent has asked the government to set up a Brexit Resilience Fund for tourism businesses that could suffer when the UK leaves the European Union next March.

Deirdre Wells, chief executive of the destination marketing organisation, wrote to culture secretary Jeremy Wright to appeal for financial support for tourism businesses which may bear the brunt of delays and congestion caused by Brexit.

More than 90% of the UK’s truck freight arrives via Kent each year, as well as more than 22 million passengers.

Kent County Council (KCC) is working with government departments on a new traffic management system called Operation Brock – Brexit Operations Across Kent – which would help tackle any disruption.

The contingency plan follows the Operation Stack scheme, which saw lorries parked on the motorway during times of congestion at ports such as Dover.

Wells warned that Operation Brock may be insufficient to manage traffic flows, adding: “Visit Kent is keen to ensure that businesses are aware of the need to prepare for delays and congestion.

“There is concern that the disruption will coincide with the beginning of the tourism season and the important Easter holiday period – and the impact that this will have on the thousands of Kent SMEs, many of whom lack the resources to manage major external disruption of this scale.”

As well as the resilience fund, Visit Kent’s Brexit planning includes a communications strategy to send clear information to tourists and businesses, plus a rail-first strategy to encourage visitors to switch to rail.

It also wants to run a major Welcome to Kent campaign in summer 2019, linked to the GREAT campaign, to tell domestic and international visitors that Kent, and the UK, is an open and welcoming destination.

Visit Kent proposes that the fund will be supported by major tourism partners in Kent, including KCC, Eurotunnel and Southeastern trains as well as major tourist attractions and hospitality businesses.