A cross-Channel meeting to support tourism between Kent and its nearest European neighbours hopes the continued easing of lockdown will boost the sector, which is worth nearly £4 billion pounds a year to the Kent economy.
As the potential for tourism slowly begins in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, and continued uncertainty around long-haul flights, closer-to-home holidays could be a catalyst for change.
The Straits Committee, a collaboration with Kent’s European neighbours, aims to support business and economic development both here and across the Channel.
The meeting, held earlier this month, brought together directors and senior managers from Kent, Pas-de-Calais, Department du Nord, West Flanders, East Flanders, and the internationally renowned Coastal Tourism Knowledge Institute in Zeeland.
KCC Cabinet Member for Economic Development Mike Whiting said: “The tourism sector closed down almost completely across the Straits area in March.
“In Kent the sector has estimated a 95-98% loss in revenue, while in West Flanders losses have been put at some 750 million euros.
“The emphasis for us now is towards recovery and preparing businesses for reopening, and the straits partners are using online tools and webinars to offer training and guidance on hygiene and adaptation.
“While our focus is on rebuilding the domestic tourism market right here in Kent, and we are engaging with Government on that, there is a tradition of tourism from near and neighbouring markets and we are keen to work together through the Straits Committee to rebuild these markets by promoting each other’s areas.”
UK tourists form the largest percentage of foreign visitors to Bruges while British and Belgian visitors are the top two foreign visitor groups in the Pas-de-Calais. West Flanders and Pas-de-Calais receive many visitors from the UK who visit the First World War battlefields. There are 313,000 tourism businesses in France, and it faces an estimated 150,000 job losses in the tourism sector.
Chief Executive Officer at Visit Kent Deirdre Wells OBE said: “At a time of unprecedented challenge for our industry, Visit Kent was delighted to join with partners across the Channel to discuss how we can collectively rebuild our vital tourism economy.
“The excellent collaboration which we have established over many years means our ability to share best practice and support for our tourism businesses is strong.
“Now, more than ever, we need to continue to work closely to support our sector to recover and thrive.”