Damian's article on English Tourism Week for this week's Herald and Petersfield Post:
Today sees the start of English Tourism Week. This year’s focus is celebrating all the amazing people working in the tourism sector, and the wonderful experiences they create for all of us. In the South East alone, tourism spend is upwards of £13billion per year and as the world slowly recovers from the pandemic, that number is only going to get bigger.
One of our most valuable tourism markets, the US, is now seeing booking levels to the UK ahead of pre-pandemic levels and there’s now an uptick in the number travelling here from China too. By 2025, VisitEngland predicts that inbound visitor numbers will be back to where they were before the pandemic. There are also signs that more people are taking domestic trips, particularly overnight stays, compared to last year.
Confidence is returning and it’s for us to grab this opportunity with both hands and make East Hampshire one of the top destinations for both domestic and international tourists.
Some of the most important people working in tourism are volunteers. They create experiences and events because it’s something they feel passionate about and want others to feel the same. I have met many of them and am always blown away by their knowledge and enthusiasm and leave these visits feeling inspired and wanting to find out more.
That’s why I’m so keen to promote tourism locally, not just during English Tourism Week but all year round. There are so many highlights, including Petersfield Museum, Chawton House Library, Gilbert White’s House, the many vineyards and distilleries, and not forgetting the amazing arts scene.
On that theme, next week I’m pleased to be returning to The Phoenix Theatre & Arts Centre in Bordon. This is an amazing arts and cultural space offering comedy and quiz nights, cinema viewings, dance, wellbeing and music classes as well as school clubs and holiday activities for children and young people. If you haven’t visited yet I would urge you to go as there is such a wide and varied programme of activities and events, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest.
The centre also recently received Arts Council England funding for the next three years in recognition of its commitment to bringing arts into the community, providing much needed stability during a difficult time for the arts sector. This funding also gives the centre prestigious National Portfolio status; an award given to less than 1000 arts organisations in the country.
English Tourism Week is an opportunity for us to all to get out and about and discover the wonderful gems in our own backyard. Train enthusiasts young and old can head to two steam experiences at the Watercress Line and Hollycombe. There’s also Jane Austen’s House in Chawton, which is rich in cultural history and is truly transformative to an era long ago.
Now that signs of spring are appearing (although perhaps not in the air temperature!) this is also the perfect time to take one of the spectacular rambling routes or get your lycra on for a spin around our unrivalled countryside. And let’s not forget the Alton Walking Festival, which runs for the whole of May. This is one of the biggest and best events of its kind in the country, so I’d encourage you to show your support by signing up for one of the many walks when the details are released later this month.
We must get behind everything that our beautiful area has to offer and the best way to do that is with our feet. So let’s make the most of what’s on our doorstep and visit local.
English Tourism Week runs from Friday 17th March to Sunday 26th March.