Visit Kent’s latest Tourism Economic Impact Study shows that before the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ashford’s visitor economy was valued at £311m, after welcoming 4.7m visitors in 2019.  

Independent research commissioned by Kent’s official Destination Management Organisation has revealed that £20m was spent on average in the local economy each month in 2019, as a direct result of the region’s tourism and hospitality industry.  

The number of tourism jobs across the district showed a 5.8% increase between 2017 and 2019, to 6,103, accounting for 11% of Ashford’s total employment last year.  

Using the industry-respected Cambridge Economic Impact Model, the study measured the volume and value of tourism across the county in 2019, and the impact of visits and visitor expenditure on the local economy. 

The release of Ashford’s latest Economic Impact findings not only provides a detailed picture of the significant effect the district’s tourism and hospitality sector had on the region’s wider economy last year, but also establishes a benchmark from which to measure the impact of Covid-19, and an extremely useful vehicle in aiding the recovery of the industry.  

Cllr Matthew Forest, Portfolio Holder for Culture, Tourism and Leisure, said: “This research shows just how much tourism in the Ashford borough was growing before the coronavirus pandemic took hold earlier this year. Tourism is a vital part of the borough’s economy and a key employer and so I’m pleased to see that it features so prominently in the Council’s Recovery Plan. We will do all we can to help all our tourism and hospitality businesses get back on their feet and be welcoming visitors again as soon as it is safe to do so.” 

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Deirdre Wells OBE, Chief Executive of Visit Kent, said: “The insights presented as part of this latest research demonstrate the huge contribution our vital industry makes to Ashford’s economy, and to the overall Kent economy. In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, the tourism, leisure and hospitality sector is having to drastically re-think how to rebuild demand and revenue streams, working together to adapt, develop and survive.  

“That’s why we are particularly proud to be working closely with our partners in Ashford as part of our four year Interreg Experience project; supporting businesses to adapt to changing consumer trends and become more resilient by creating new visitor experiences. Continued collaborative commitments like this will be critical in championing the recovery of our sector during a particularly challenging year ahead.” 

The recovery of the county’s visitor economy is being further supported by South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) funding which has been secured by Visit Kent, alongside colleagues in Essex and Sussex. The funding project, titled Re-Building Confidence and Demand in the Visitor Economy, will be rolled out across the SELEP area, and will include major digital campaigns to drive off-season visits, increase consumer confidence and disperse visitors, along with dedicated local campaigns to effectively reboot the visitor economy ahead of the upcoming 2021 season. 

To access the full Ashford Tourism Economic Impact Study 2019, please visit: https://www.visitkentbusiness.co.uk/insights-and-resources/kent-cambridge-economic-impact-model/.  

For more information about Ashford’s tourism offer, please visit www.experienceashfordandtenterden.co.uk/.   

By Ed

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