The Tourism Minister, MPs and national tourism chiefs have pledged to support the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean and help with funding, employment and transport.
In a keynote speech at the annual Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism Forum, the Rt Hon David Evennett MP, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, called for collaboration between public and private sectors to work together and apply to the £40 million Discover England Fund to boost tourism in Wye Valley and Forest of Dean.
He urged the 100-plus assembled businesses to work together because “tourism is an engine of growth that brings jobs and security”.
Evennett spoke of his passion for local tourism, culture and heritage and said: “it is fantastic to be in Wye Valley and Forest of Dean and see the wonderful range of tourism attractions this area has. This Government is committed to spreading the economic and social benefits that visitors can bring right across this country.
“That’s why we have a five-point tourism strategy and recently launched a new £40 million Discover England Fund, which will help businesses to encourage more visitors to come and enjoy beautiful areas like this one.”
In his speech Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper said: “People don’t realise that every aspect of our lives and the local economy is touched by tourism”. He added: “I’ve lived in the area for 16 years and 15 years ago when foot and mouth struck I realised how much many of our constituents rely on people coming into the area.
“I have always been a big supporter of tourism businesses in the constituency because they play such an important role in the local economy. The association does a great job in promoting tourism across the area and I was very pleased to be able to invite the Minister to today’s event.”
Patricia Yates, VisitBritain and VisitEngland’s director of strategy and communications, outlined the organisation’s plans and priorities, and how she is telling the Wye Dean’s story to international markets from China to Australia. She emphasised the funding available to help grow tourism in the area and urged businesses to “get involved and work together”, because “Britain is the home of amazing moments” .
She added: “We’ve committed to driving tourism growth across the south west and it’s been great to be speaking today at the heart of one of the country’s premier film tourism locations about our campaigns locally, nationally and internationally to deliver an increase in visitor numbers and make sure the economic benefits of tourism are spread across the region.”
Ian Officer, chair of Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism, said: “The forum was a day of inspiration, education, collaboration and cooperation. The association’s job is to put the Wye Dean on the map in the UK and abroad, so the fact we attracted such high-calibre speakers to address our members proves the importance of investment in tourism to support the local economy.
“As the recognised Destination Management Organisation for the area, we are perfectly positioned to bring businesses and strategic partners together to deliver for our area, and we would urge tourism businesses to work with us”
David Owen, chief executive of Gloucestershire First LEP, said: “tourism is an absolutely vital industry for Gloucestershire because 18 million tourists come in to the area and spend on accommodation, shopping and attractions. He added: “We can’t underestimate the importance of tourism and we must support and grow the area’s infrastructure so people have a better experience.”
Emma Stewart, production manager for Creative England, highlighted the importance of film tourism, saying: “404 locations are registered in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire and last year 221 days of filming were recorded.” She added: “A TV show can spend £500 to £8,000 a day, while a feature film can spend £8,000 to £32,000 a day on local crew, accommodation, food and staffing. The economic impact of screen tourism cannot be underestimated.”
Maureen McAllister and Ian Officer from Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism used the platform to outline the plans of the association in 2016. Kelli Jenkins from South West Tourism Growth Fund presented practical ideas and tips to improve tourism businesses. Iain Stewart, co-founder of Freetobook, explained how WVFDT’s new booking engine had put local businesses on the global map and boosted revenues for accommodation providers in the area.
Presentationbs can be downloaded by clicking links in the programme below.
10:30 Maureen McAllister, our Executive Director, opens the forum
10:50 Patricia Yates – VisitBritain
11:10 Film and TV – Emma Stewart from Creative England
11:30 David Owen – CEO, from the Gloucestershire First LEP
11:50 Key note address – Mark Harper, MP for the Forest of Dean and Government Chief Whip welcomes the Rt Hon David Evennett MP (acting) Sport, Tourism and Heritage Minister. Presentation and Q&A
13:30 Helping South West tourism businesses attract more international visitors – Kelli Jenkins for South West Tourism Growth Fund
14:00 Online Booking – Iain Stewart, Managing Director of FreetoBook
14:30 Equine demonstration in the Main Arena