Deadline looming for tourism funding boost

Posted on 27 August 2020

Tourism businesses only have until the end of August to apply for help developing a new product for business recovery.

To aid the county’s recovery following the effects of COVID-19, Ashford Borough Council is working in partnership with Visit Kent on the launch of a brand-new Experience Development Programme.

Funded through the European Interreg Experience project, this unique Development Programme aims to assist both traditional and non-traditional tourism businesses across the region to adapt and develop new tourism products.

The programme, which opened earlier this year, has already had nine applications from Ashford borough businesses. Applications must be made by Monday 31 August to be considered.

This is a fantastic opportunity for the borough’s tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses to access funding.

Cllr Jenny Webb, Deputy portfolio holder for culture, tourism and leisure

The programme will work closely with organisations, supporting them as they adjust and diversify their product offer, encouraging collaboration with businesses both inside and outside of their sector, helping them to reach new audiences, and developing a year-round product to help recovery and resilience against future challenges.

Tourism has an increasingly important role within Ashford’s economy, generating around £293m a year and supporting more than 5,700 jobs. Interreg Experience will help to maximise the tourism industry’s already significant economic impact on the area, focusing on an increase in overnight stays to cultivate jobs and additional spend through high value, low volume tourism in the area.

Cllr Jenny Webb, deputy portfolio holder for culture, tourism and leisure, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the borough’s tourism, hospitality and leisure businesses to access funding to help them bring new products to market. If there’s something you have always wanted to do but needed a bit of assistance with, now is the time to apply. I know that many of these businesses have really struggled with the enforced closures so hopefully this project has come at the perfect time to aid recovery.”

The tourism, leisure and hospitality industry is having to drastically re-think how to rebuild demand and revenue streams.

Deirdre Wells OBE, Visit Kent Chief Executive

Visit Kent are currently looking to work with 125 eligible organisations, each of whom will receive a range of support to build and launch their new products, from specialist 1:1 consultancy and business planning, to new photography, marketing campaigns and proactive testing and sales with the travel trade.

Visit Kent Chief Executive Deirdre Wells OBE said: “In light of the current COVID-19 crisis, the tourism, leisure and hospitality industry is having to drastically re-think how to rebuild demand and revenue streams. To survive and future-proof business, it’s crucial for organisations to rethink, adapt and develop new ideas for consumers who will be travelling differently, looking to reconnect with close family and friends to enjoy shared experiences in a safe and secure environment.”

Ashford Borough Council is one of ten organisations to have committed to match fund the Visit Kent and Kent Downs AONB budgets for the Interreg Experience project, alongside colleagues at Kent County Council, Medway Council and district authority partners in Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Hythe, Gravesham, Thanet and Tunbridge Wells.

To find out more about the Experience Development Programme and for details of how to apply, visit: https://www.visitkentbusiness.co.uk/about-us/european-funding/experience/