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Kent’s latest Economic Impact Model for 2020 published today, focusing on the impact on Gravesham’s visitor economy from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visit Kent’s latest Economic Impact Model for 2020 published today shows the severe initial impact on Gravesham’s visitor economy from the COVID-19 pandemic, with a 51.9% drop in visitors overall compared to 2019, and a 62.5% decline in value.

Independent research commissioned by Kent’s official Destination Management Organisation has revealed that £3 million was spent on average in the local economy each month in 2020, as a direct result of the region’s tourism and hospitality industry, compared to£8 million on average in 2019.

The number of tourism jobs across the borough also showed a decrease of 42.5% between 2019 and 2020, to 1,608, accounting for 5% of total employment in Gravesham last year. 

These latest figures provide a detailed – and important - picture of the impact on Gravesham’s tourism and hospitality sector from the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw the first UK National Lockdown taking place from March 2020.

Using the industry-respected Cambridge Economic Impact Model, the study measured the volume and value of tourism within the county in 2020, and the effect of visits and visitor expenditure on the local economy.

While the tourism and hospitality picture was exceptionally challenging throughout the region in 2020, these latest findings do show that the county’s visitor economy performed above the national average across several areas.

When looking specifically at trip purpose, the proportion of those travelling to visit friends and relatives overnight in the Garden of England during 2020 rose by 5% (up from 44% in 2019 to 49%).

This demonstrates the incredible influence that ongoing support from Kent’s residents – who acted as ambassadors for their county, welcoming friends, and family to experience it first-hand - had on local businesses during a hugely difficult year.

The advocacy of Kent’s locals is strengthened further by findings from a separate study conducted by Visit Kent into resident’s perceptions of the impact of tourism across the Garden of England.

This research highlighted that 88% of those surveyed during the summer of 2020 supported tourism in their local area. The same study showed that 80% of respondents felt as though tourism can improve local investment and development opportunities, and 67% considered their local area to be a tourist destination.

For Gravesham, holidays accounted for the largest proportion of overnight trips in the region, accounting for 41%. This figure rose proportionally by 28, up from 13% in 2019.

Cllr Shane-Mochrie Cox, Gravesham Borough Council Cabinet Member for Community and Leisure, said: “While these figures show the inevitable decline in tourism due to lockdowns, they also reveal some encouraging bounce back, showing the entrepreneurship and resilience of our businesses and community.

“We work with local businesses and communities via Destination Gravesham, our long term Tourism and Heritage Strategy, to create new and innovative experiences for our Borough, to showcase and celebrate our heritage where we can, and to capitalise on the new trends of day trips, short stays and staycations so visitors can experience the best we have to offer in Gravesham.”

Owletts country house

Owletts is a country house in Cobham, Gravesend.

Visit Kent Chief Executive, Deirdre Wells OBE, said: “After a strong performance in 2019, our sector’s bold plans for 2020 were utterly disrupted by the Covid-19 crisis.

“This latest research is a stark demonstration of the direct impact on Gravesham’s brilliant tourism, leisure, and hospitality sector, which is one of the district’s biggest employers, and the life and soul of our high streets.

“The findings from 2020’s Economic Impact Study demonstrate exactly why our industry continues to need long-term support from central Government, to enable a sustainable destination recovery.

“We are extremely grateful to our Kent residents who have shown unwavering levels of support to their local businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. From eating out to help out and pledges of support, to venue visits with loved ones and switching up their shopping habits, the sense of pride throughout the county has kept our industry going through these unprecedented times.”

The release of the county’s latest Economic Impact findings coincides with Kent’s recent recognition by global travel authority Lonely Planet, who have named ‘Kent’s Heritage Coast’ as number four on a list of the world’s best regions to visit in 2022. This latest accolade is particularly welcome as Kent’s tourism and hospitality sector, which was worth £4.1 billion to the local economy pre-pandemic, works hard to rebuild for the future.

Deirdre continued: “Our partners in Gravesham, and across the county, have been working extremely hard over the last 18 months to welcome visitors back safely and to continue providing a first-class experience, with many proudly displaying VisitBritain's We're Good to Go kitemark as a way of reassuring customers and staff that processes are in place to welcome them back with confidence.

“We are hugely honoured to see Kent’s Heritage Coast cited as one of Lonely Planet’s best travel destinations for this year. This award coincides with Visit Kent’s 20th anniversary and marks the biggest year to date in terms of the long-term recovery of our region’s tourism and hospitality sector.

“Accolades such as Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel are exceptionally important for reminding visitors of exactly what makes our corner of the world so special. Thanks to incredible collaborations county-wide, we’re confident that we can build a vibrant, sustainable, and resilient industry for the future, together.”

View the full Gravesham Tourism Economic Impact Study 2020 report, along with a selection of district-specific reports, please visit:

For more information about Gravesham, visit www.visitgravesend.co.uk 

Published: Wednesday, 26th January 2022