A new tourism project to develop a long-lasting experiential off-season visitor economy for Kent
EXPERIENCE will develop sustainable experiences to attract visitors to Kent especially off season between October and March. As well as supporting Kent to fulfil its off-season potential, EXPERIENCE will also help rebuild the tourism sector in Kent in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
Visit Kent and Kent Downs AONB (with the North Downs Way National Trail) are working together to deliver this exciting investment for Kent. They have respective budgets of €1.6 and €3.1 million and will spend this wisely to improve Kent for visitors and residents making Kent both a great place to live and a great place to visit.
If you are Kent Downs AONB business who is interested in nature and the outdoors, scroll down to see how you can get involved.
What is ‘Experiential’ tourism?
EXPERIENCE will help Kent capitalise on the booming global trend for personalised and local tourism experiences. Traditionally, tourism across much of Kent is ‘destination’ based and focussed on promoting popular destinations during peak season. However, visitors increasingly seek personalised and authentic local tourism experiences. Experiences in which they can actively engage and feel a sense of connection to local foods, activities, history, arts and crafts. Experiential tourism immerses the visitor and takes them beyond simply seeing places and following run of the mill itineraries.
Visitors can walk in the footsteps of ancient pilgrims, learn to make beer or pizza with local herbs, practice yoga in the vineyard, take a llama for a walk, or experience Kent’s nature close up and personal with expert guides.
What are the benefits to countryside, organisations, and businesses?
- Increasing visitor numbers and overnight stays in the off-season will boost local economies by increased spending on experiences, accommodation, and eateries, and through the creation of year-round jobs.
- There will be better infrastructure for off season visitors such as improved footpath surfacing, signage and facilities benefiting visitors and residents.
- The landscape on which Kent tourism relies will be better managed for this purpose and the businesses that welcome and provide services to tourists will be better trained, supported and able to adapt their offers to the needs of the market.
- A great place to live, a great place to visit. Tourists will be recognised as resident, domestic and international and they will receive an enhanced welcome to the Kent landscape and attractions.
- The Kent tourism industry will be more robust and provide locally sustainable economic growth and employment that benefits and is supported by local communities.
- Businesses who wish to work with others to create joint rural tourism experiences.
How you can get involved
The Kent Downs AONB and the North Downs Way are looking for businesses particularly interested in nature and outdoor activities. You may be an established business wishing to connect with nature and the outdoors more. Or you may have little or no experience in the tourist trade but you may have other skills such as forester, artisan, wildlife expert, outdoor yoga teacher, or be an outdoor activity enthusiast.
Participants can receive training and tourism offer development.
We are particularly keen to hear from:
- Businesses that are interested in welcoming more walkers and cyclists
- Businesses within 10km of the North Downs Way National Trail and interested in using the trail to attract more visitors
- Businesses on the Via Francigena (Canterbury to Dover) section of the North Downs Way interested in using this asset to attract more visitors
- Businesses that have a desire to train staff to be local rural activity ambassadors
- Businesses that have a new idea to help take advantage of the walking and cycling offer in their area.
We are inviting businesses who are particularly interested in nature and outdoor activities to get in touch.
We'd love to hear from you!
Visit Kent are also currently looking for organisations and businesses to come forward with ideas for new or adapted ‘experiences’ that might appeal to visitors. If you are a local business with an exciting idea to welcome visitors and need help to develop and bring to market then check out Visit Kent’s Business Training Offer and their Onboarding Information.
How is EXPERIENCE funded?
EXPERIENCE is a €23m project co-funded by the Interreg France (Channel) England Programme, which has committed €16m from the European Regional Development. Projects are funded in six areas across England and France: Norfolk, Kent, Cornwall, Pas-de-Calais, Compiègne and Brittany. Close collaboration across the six regional projects ensures insights and best practice are shared.
EXPERIENCE in Kent is match funded by:
Ashford Borough Council
Canterbury City Council
Dover District Council
Folkestone & Hythe District Council
Gravesham Borough Council
Kent County Council
Thanet District Council
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
Swale Borough Council