Kent tourism champions have marked the end of a €3 million project transforming the understanding of visitor economies across Britain and mainland Europe.
The European-funded three-year Sustainable Tourism Research Intelligence Partnership (SusTRIP), led by Visit Kent and Kent County Council (KCC), brought together tourism experts from France, Belgium and Holland to challenge existing research practices and develop new methodologies.
Research partners and representatives of key destination management organisations from mainland Europe and the UK, including VisitEngland and British Destinations, gathered at Eastwell Manor, Ashford, for an International Tourism Research Symposium.
Conference keynote speakers included Alexander Wilkinson, of the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) and Sharon Orrell, of VisitEngland – the national domestic tourism organisation.
Tracey Parker, research manager at Visit Kent, has been at the heart of the SusTRIP programme since it started in 2009.
She said: “The key partners faced similar challenges geographically and economically in growing their visitor economies. We worked together sharing research initiatives and best practices, and to build our individual and shared market intelligence.
“In Kent, SusTRIP has seen the launch and expansion of our Business Barometer providing our destinations, attractions, conference centres and accommodation providers with invaluable month on month intelligence – about the visitors in the county, how different sectors in different areas are faring, visitor trends and upcoming issues affecting the industry locally and nationally.
“As a result, our businesses and our local authorities are now better placed to identify seasonal trends, develop new markets and take a much more informed view when drawing up strategies and policies to grow their visitor economies and destinations.”
VisitEngland is working with Visit Kent to distribute the SusTRIP research models to other destination management organisations. And the finishing touches are being put to a new system to analyse the economic impact of individual events and attraction as well as new methods of segmenting and understanding the day visitor market.
Ruth Wood, head of development at Visit Kent, said: “This project will deliver a lasting legacy for the tourism industry and its providers in Kent.
“We rely on robust research tools to give us, our businesses, and our local authorities the information we all need to drive tourism to new heights and grow our economy. Tourism already contributes more than £3.2 billion to our economy and supports 63,000 jobs and we are determined to grow the industry taking advantage of the tremendous promotion Kent and Britain before and during the Olympic Games.
“Since Visit Kent was founded 10 years ago we have been committed to developing and collating the accurate data we need to identify new niche and developing markets. Our aim is to use the best data available to ensure our marketing of the county, at home and abroad, is always highly targeted and adds value at every level.
“Being a lead partner in SusTRIP has made a tremendous contribution to our ongoing commitment to research-based activity.”
The European funding came from the Interreg Two Seas Programme. Visit Kent was working alongside the Comité Régionale de Tourisme, based in Lille; Westtoer, the tourism agency for West Flanders; and Hogeschool Zeeland University of Applied Sciences and NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences, from The Netherlands.